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December 2, 2002—In this issue:
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Massachusetts Appeals Microsoft Decision, West Virginia Might Join
- Microsoft Accused of Mob-Like Tactics in European Case
- Happy 10th Anniversary SQL Server!
- Attend Our Free Tips & Tricks Web Summit
3. CONTACT US
See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly announced late Friday that his state will probably stand alone when it appeals the recent federal ruling in the Microsoft antitrust case and asks for stricter remedies against the company. Seven other nonsettling states and the District of Columbia have declined to appeal mainly because of the expense and difficulty involved. But West Virginia, the remaining holdout, will decide sometime today whether it will join Massachusetts or bow out for financial reasons.
"We are going to appeal \[the Microsoft decision\], and we are going it alone if need be," Reilly said Friday. "This appeal is necessary to protect consumers." Also on Friday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who represents most of the other nonsettling states, said, "Seven states and the District of Columbia will not appeal Judge Kollar-Kotelly's decree in the Microsoft antitrust case. We will move on to enforcing the decree on behalf of consumers and fair competition. For most of our states, it is time to dedicate our resources to enforcement of the decree and the law."
For Reilly, continuing the pursuit of Microsoft was a no-brainer because he believes that the Microsoft decision, which is based almost solely on a proposed settlement the company reached with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) a year ago, is full of loopholes. "We need to send the message that breaking the law does not pay," Reilly said. "Microsoft is crushing innovation. Without competition, our economy has no future. Competition is the key to this case."
Bluster aside, Massachusetts faces a tough road in its fight against Microsoft. First, the once rock-solid case against the company has been watered down significantly, thanks to the corporate-friendly Bush administration's new DOJ regime and various appellate court rulings. Second, several years have passed since the federal government filed the original charges—an epoch in the fast-changing technology world. Originally, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and the US government stood allied together against the recalcitrant monopolist. Over time, however, those numbers have diminished, leaving only Massachusetts and, perhaps, the cash-starved West Virginia, to carry on the fight. And any states that choose not to appeal won't share in the roughly $30 million payout Microsoft will provide to cover the states' legal expenses during the case. "We want to appeal with Massachusetts," West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr. said this weekend. "\[But\] we do have money issues. We're rolling it around. Everyone was anticipating a more substantial remedy. I hate to leave \[Reilly\] twisting in the wind when I agree with him."
The situation is so stereotypical that observers could easily draw comparisons with bad mob movies, where in which heavy-handed ruffians intimidate a juror so that he won't rule against the mob boss. This week, Microsoft stands accused of similar practices in its European antitrust fight, which took a bizarre turn when the company hired a European Commission (EC) official, Detlef Eckert, just days before he would have weighed in on whether the EC should pursue sanctions against Microsoft. And it gets worse: The official probably would have voted to pursue the company, based on his previous comments about the software giant, which he described as "causing real problems" in the software industry. Now he's no longer part of the process.
Eckert is taking 3 years of unpaid leave from his senior position in the EC's information society directorate to work for Microsoft in Paris. This weekend, the EC denied that Eckert's hiring is a conflict of interest because his work at Microsoft is unrelated to his EC job. "There is no need to investigate," an EC spokesperson said. "\[Eckert\] will be working on areas unrelated to what he has been doing in the commission. Normal rules will ensure there is no conflict of interest."
Microsoft competitors and critics are calling foul, however. Edward J. Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), told "The New York Times" that Eckert was "empathetic" to the group's anti-Microsoft view. His hiring, Black said, "appears to be part of a \[Microsoft\] effort to neutralize people." The newspaper also quotes an unnamed source, who said that Eckert's "views about Microsoft were well known. He was not a fan of the company."
The EC will issue an internal draft ruling in its Microsoft investigation sometime this month. Had Eckert still been working at the EC, he would have prepared a public response to the draft, which the EC would have used to determine whether to pursue sanctions against the company. Instead, Eckert, who viewed confidential documents regarding the EC's case against the company last year and met with Microsoft rivals lobbying for tough penalties, won't play a role in the case. Eckert signed a confidentiality agreement in which he pledged not to divulge any confidential information to Microsoft. Furthermore, the agreement bars Eckert from lobbying on Microsoft's behalf.
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