August 14, 2002
Making Life Difficult

Now will someone please explain to me why Apple's and Linux's desktop market shares are so small? On Lisa Rein's Radar: Warning To Windows Media File Collectors: Your Music Will Die With Your Computer: A guy reformatted his hard drive and then found out none of his Windows Media files would work. Turns out that Windows Media Player turns the "copy protection" (copy prevention) on by default when it rips CDs, so when he reformatted his hard drive the player thought he was trying to play the copy protected files and a computer other than the one they had been licensed for. Let me say this another way: when you rip CDs on a Windows machine using Windows Media Player, it makes a unique identifier for your computer (that has privacy implications, yes, but I'm trying to make another point here). That unique identifier is associated with a license that is stored separately from the file itself that will only let those files be played back on the one single computer that matches the unique identifier. No other devices. Ever. (Without a lot of hassle anyway -- Without having to backup and restore your licenses on the other computer --...

Posted by DeLong at 02:55 PM

June 20, 2002
Microsoft Plays Hardball at the End of Its Antitrust Trial

The end of the remedy phase of the Microsoft antitrust trial. Looks like--once again--Microsoft's lawyers have decided to rely on the appeals court's finding something it doesn't like in the trial judge's conduct of the case. This is an extremely risky strategy.... | M E D I A U N S P U N | Judging a Judge's Smile | Before closing arguments in the remedy phase of the Microsoft antitrust trial, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly asked the two sides to rank their arguments and consider which of their opponent's proposals might be tolerable to them. Attorneys for the nine non-settling states obliged. Microsoft hard-lined it, blowing off the judge's request and even proposing a last-minute scaling back of the already toothless Justice Department settlement. And the judge smiled. Reporters had differing interpretations of that smile. The New York Times said the judge smiled at Microsoft's lawyer's "open defiance of her efforts to extract concessions." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer guessed that the judge's smile meant that she "like most in the courtroom understood such elements have no chance of being dropped from any settlement." The San Jose Mercury News' Dan Gillmor made his opinion perfectly clear while admitting that the judge's could...

Posted by DeLong at 09:41 AM

June 18, 2002
Not Enough Information to Tell What Is Going On: The Current State of the Microsoft Case

Something has happened to change the mind of the trial judge in the Microsoft case. But what? And how? There is not enough information in this news article to figure it out. New York Times: Microsoft Case Turns Sharply June 19, 2002 | Microsoft Case Turns Sharply | By AMY HARMON | The federal judge in the Microsoft antitrust trial indicated for the first time yesterday that she was questioning the government's proposed settlement, which she could reject if she found that it was not in the public interest. Lawyers for Microsoft and the coalition of states pursuing a more restrictive antitrust remedy are scheduled to make their closing arguments today. But in an unexpected order issued yesterday afternoon, the judge appeared less interested in hearing summaries of the opposing views than in structuring a mediation session. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court in Washington told Microsoft and the states to be ready to answer questions about how their respective proposals could be modified to make the terms acceptable. The order is significant in part because the states' case has been viewed as a long shot, with legal precedent dictating that the judge show deference to the federal...

Posted by DeLong at 10:51 PM

May 15, 2002
Freedom to Innovate?

Lurking behind the legal case that is now Unsettling States v. Microsoft has always been a whispered sotto voce claim by Microsoft that competition--in the market for PC operating systems, for office productivity suites, for browsers--is a bad thing. Technological innovation needs a single, strong, dominant, monopolistic firm to set the standard, and to tell the industry when it is time for the standard to change. Whenever I make this (possibly true, possibly false) point, I refer to UNIX-on-micros in the 1980s, when an operating system technologically superior to MS-DOS went nowhere because the lack of a dominant standard-setter prevented growth and allowed the emergence of enough small incompatibilities to fragment the market and discourage applications development (which led John Doerr to once say that I knew nothing about UNIX in the 1980s, applications development, or software markets.) I have never been able to evaluate this argument satisfactorily. But last week something happened to one of its biggest boosters. Keith Teare, CEO of Real Names, who had favored the maintenance of Microsoft's monopoly in web browsers as pro-consumer because "without Microsoft [to set the standard, and make sure that Real Names's products are included in the standard set of browser...

Posted by DeLong at 02:54 PM

April 25, 2002
Charlie Cooper on Our Need to Keep Microsoft Running Scared

Things were a lot different before Netscape sued for surrender. When the browser battle raged at full flame, the rivals constantly pushed each other to improve their respective Web offerings...

Posted by DeLong at 03:35 PM