Justice Department slams Microsoft's antitrust remedy proposal

www.infoworld.com |  Business

AS EXPECTED, THE Department of Justice late Wednesday lambasted Microsoft's proposal to modify its behavior in order to restore competition in the software industry. The department repeated its call for the software titan to be split in two.

"Microsoft's proposed remedy would leave it free to continue the very practices which the evidence at trial showed, and this Court found, to be unlawful and would do nothing to restore competition," said a Justice Department filing, which was submitted Wednesday in conjunction with the 17 U.S. states that are also plaintiffs in the government's antitrust case against Microsoft.

The purpose of the remedy should be to end Microsoft's unlawful conduct, prevent the vendor from breaking the law in the future, and restore competition in the software industry, the DOJ said in its filing. Microsoft's proposal does nothing to address the last issue, and very little to address the first two, the DOJ added.

"Microsoft's proposed remedy is neither serious or sensible," the filing concluded.

The filing also argues that Microsoft has not shown good reason why the company should not be broken in two, as the Department of Justice suggested in its own remedy proposal filed two weeks ago.

"Microsoft attempts to elide the need for structural relief by pretending, contrary to the evidence at trial and this court's findings, that its conduct had no effect on competition," the Justice Department filing said. In fact, evidence at the trial showed that Microsoft's conduct eliminated a serious threat to its monopoly posed by Netscape Communications' Web browser and Sun Microsystems's Java programming language, the Department of Justice said.

The Justice Department and 17 U.S. state attorneys general recommended late last month that the judge overseeing the antitrust case, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, should split Microsoft into two separate companies, one focused on the vendor's Windows operating system and the other focused on software applications.

The Justice Department also recommended that behavioral restrictions should be placed on Microsoft until the company breakup takes effect. The restrictions include requiring Microsoft to make key Windows APIs available to ISVs to give them an equal chance of creating programs that compete with Microsoft's.

A week ago, Microsoft asked Jackson to reject the government's "radical request" to break up the company. Instead, the software giant proposed a set of relatively mild behavioral restrictions, including placing limits on the way it deals with its Windows customers, and offering a version of its Windows operating system that hides the icon for Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser.

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