EVIL MICROSOFT

Discussion in 'Fayetteville, NC' started by JediSilentBob, Oct 17, 2002.

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  1. JediSilentBob Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Apr 18, 2002
    This is an article from CNN about Evil Microsoft that I thought us computer peeps would enkoy.


    "WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Microsoft awaits court approval of its landmark antitrust settlement with the government, the company has angered some competitors by tightly limiting the technical data it promised to release.

    Microsoft says the restrictions are normal for the software industry and do not violate the terms of the settlement. But competitors contend that Microsoft's actions are reminiscent of the behavior that led to the antitrust case and reinforce their claim that the entire settlement is inadequate.

    "It has done nothing to level the playing field," said Mark Webbink, general counsel for Red Hat, which sells a version of the Linux operating system that competes with Microsoft's Windows.

    Deborah Majoras, the Justice Department's deputy attorney general for antitrust, said her office is aware of the concerns and is closely looking at them.

    Jim Kulbaski, an outside lawyer hired by nine states that joined the settlement, said he is also examining the issue. "These issues are not being taken lightly," Kulbaski said.

    U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is expected to rule soon on both the settlement, and the additional penalties sought by nine other states that rejected the deal.

    Protocols vital for competitors
    The settlement requires that Microsoft release details about "communications protocols" that its products use to transfer information within itself and among non-Microsoft products.

    Without those protocols, competing gadgets and software won't work as well with Windows as Microsoft's own products do. The protocols are vital for competitors since Windows runs on about 90 percent of desktop computers and about half of corporate server computers. During the antitrust case, Microsoft was accused of withholding such information to maintain an advantage over competitors.

    But even with the settlement, software firms say Microsoft still isn't making it easy to see the protocols. In order to gain access, a company would have to use Microsoft's "Passport" identity authentication system, then request and sign two forms -- one of them promising secrecy -- just to see the license terms and find how much Microsoft is charging for the information.

    The settlement allows Microsoft to charge for the communications protocols, but says they must be distributed "on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms."

    "It's just offensive," said Webbink of Red Hat. "Why shouldn't every member of the general public have access to the license agreement and to the royalty rates when that is a part of the remedy in the antitrust trial?"

    Microsoft responds
    Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler called the protocol process straightforward. He said nondisclosure agreements are common in the industry.

    "We're doing many things, including the settlement program, to make our protected intellectual property widely accessible and available under very reasonable terms," Desler said. "If there are issues we're in constant dialogue with these government agencies as well."

    Since Microsoft is charging a royalty fee to use the communications protocols, any open-source developer -- those who contend that sharing software blueprints is the best way to build products -- would not be able to use them. Those companies, which include Linux firms, use a special "free software" license called the General Public License that bars such royalty payments.

    Linux is one of the few operating systems that presents a threat to Microsoft's Windows monopoly. Microsoft was found guilty of using illegal means to protect that monopoly.

    Webbink said Microsoft has seeded many of its contracts with language that frustrates developers who abide by the General Public License.

    "It certainly makes it unusable for us in our general distribution," Webbink said. "We can't be in the position of passing out proprietary software." "

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