Competitors Accuse Microsoft Of Abusing Antitrust Settlement Terms

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This may possibly surprise you, but Microsoft is being accused of abusing the terms of the antitrust settlement worked out last year between the company and the DoJ. The Washington Post is reporting that Microsoft is charging what some are calling exorbitant prices to be able to access some Microsoft technology. The technology -- some server level communication protocols -- was to be made available to the companyis competitors in an effort to allow third-party software developers to have the same sort of access to Windowsi innards as did Microsoft.

Normally, a company wouldnit have to make such allowances. Apple, for instance, would not have to let competitors interested in making a music jukebox for the Mac see how iTunes hooks into the OS. Microsoft, on the other hand, was found to have monopoly power in the OS market, and to have illegally leveraged that power to gain market share for its other products. The settlement reached between Microsoft and the DoJ was ostensibly intended to level the playing field, and keep Microsoft from abusing its monopoly power in the future, and access to these communications protocols was one of the pieces of that solutions.

If Big Redmondis competitors are to be believed, the company is twisting the letter of the agreement in such a way as to price anyone who may benefit from seeing this technology out of the market for doing so. From the Washington Post:

Microsoft Corp. is trying to license key pieces of its technology at inflated rates and under onerous conditions, according to competitors who charge that the software giant is thwarting its antitrust settlement with the federal government. The actions are discouraging rivals from participating in the licensing program, which is an important element of the agreement that Microsoft struck with the Justice Department and several states 18 months ago.

[...]

Portions of the agreement require Microsoft to reveal more of its computer code to other software developers to ensure that their programs will work properly with Windows. One unusual provision, however, allows Microsoft to license some of the code -- known as communication protocols -- to outside companies on "reasonable" and "non-discriminatory" terms. The protocols are specifically designed to help non-Microsoft server systems interact with Windows at individual workstations.

The goal was to prevent Microsoft from using its Windows dominance to strong-arm corporate customers into choosing Microsoft server systems, one of its fastest-growing lines of business. But Microsoft was allowed to charge for the protocols because servers were not part of the antitrust case.

[...]

"There is something fundamentally wrong with requiring Novell to pay large sums of money to access information that the court determined Microsoft illegally withheld," said Ryan Richards, a Novell vice president and deputy general counsel. "Microsoft breaks the law and Novell pays for the remedy."

There is a lot more information in the full article at The Washington Post. Note that it is a two page article, as well.

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