Analysis and rationality in a nonrational world

January 2, 2007

Logical failure in the antitrust division

Filed under: Government — analysis @ 3:20 pm

How’s this for logic: Microsoft, having been found guilty of violating Federal law and illegally maintaining an effective monopoly, was released with a touch of the wrist (I wouldn’t call it a slap) and a promise not to do it again. Just like the last time the Justice Department settled similar charges. Yet, Microsoft continues to subvert standards so files and Web sites only work with Windows; refuses to make versions of its office software for any other platform (I’m talking Access here, though Mac users who want to read current Word and Excel files are also out of luck); and when it does make a hobbled version of its office software (free of Access, a key component, and unable to run Windows VisualBasic-based software based on Office) available for the Mac, it seems to make sure it leaves out key components and provides subtle incompatilities absent from, say, Adobe’s cross-platform products.

But this isn’t the time to talk about Microsoft violating Federal law, then committing perjury to cover it up, then being released without punishment after making hefty contributions to the right politicians. This is about Microsoft pushing their bought-and-paid-for politicians to go after Apple.

That’s right, Apple. You know how Microsoft has its own proprietary formats – two of them – for music? Neither one will work on iPods, because they’re not open to Apple, and won’t work on any Mac or Linux computer – unlike Apple’s DRM-version of AAC, which does work under Windows, albeit not under Linux.

Well, that doesn’t matter. Because Apple is being sued for its monopolistic practices, in keeping iTunes a closed system. That’s right – because Apple won’t pay Microsoft for a license to Windows’ DRM format, which is unusable on Macs, (let’s repeat this here – that’s unusable on Macs, which are Apple’s main reason for being in business) – Apple is being sued for monopolistic practices. Never mind that unlike Microsoft, with its huge bag of dirty tricks, Apple did not actually break the law to gain its market leader status. Never mind that you can play iTunes-encoded music on Windows PCs, and can load any MP3 encoded tunes, as long as they aren’t loaded with a proprietary Microsoft (or other proprietary) DRM which Apple would have to pay, onto an iPod. Never mind that you can even record music in AAC format – quite easily, in fact – and play that on an iPod.

Because Apple refused to pay for a license for Microsoft’s DRM software, which would not work on Macs, making Apple the maker of a music device that wouldn’t work with its own computer, Apple is now accused of monopolistic practices.

And it’s not like Apple, say, spread vicious rumors about competitive products (DR-DOS). Or deliberately altered the operating system to prevent people from running competitive products. Or bought out competitors to destroy them. Or paid other companies to engage in frivolous lawsuits (Linux users know what I’m talking about). Or charged companies license fees on software they didn’t install. Or subsidized money-losing products to gain dominance, successfully (XBox) or unsuccessfully (MSN). Or gave out massive campaign contributions to have lawsuits dismissed.

This one would defy logic, but it’s so openly corrupt and obvious the only thing that defies logic is how a judge refused to dismiss it.


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