September 02, 2003
Microsoft Quality Corporate Behavior

Robert X. Cringely is his usual happy self as he thinks some more about Microsoft: I, Cringely | The Pulpit: Microsoft handed over the e-mail messages on a disk, and when Burst's lawyers had printed all the messages they filled 140 boxes. That's a lot of messages, but not surprising for Microsoft, where the business culture of the company literally happens on e-mail. When Burst's lawyers put the messages in order by date and time, they claim to have noticed a peculiar phenomenon. There were literally no messages from approximately one week before until about a month after all seven meetings between the two companies. This meant that either Microsoft completely suspended its corporate e-mail culture for an aggregate period of 35 weeks, or there were messages that had been sent and received at Microsoft, but not divulged to Burst. Presented with this charge in court, Microsoft's attorneys acknowledged that the message gaps existed. The messages had been erased by the half-dozen Microsoft employees involved, both from their PCs and from the mail servers. There were no backup copies. The reason for this mass erasure, it was explained, is that Burst technology was unimpressive and not of interest to Microsoft,...

Posted by DeLong at 08:02 AM

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

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

November 10, 2000
A Brad DeLong's-Eye View of the Impact of Microsoft Monopoly-Maintenance Actions on Consumer Welfare

Consumer Harm and the Microsoft Case Surfing across the web, I was surprised to find Sloan School Dean Richard Schmalensee (in David Evans and Richard Schmalensee (2000), "Be Nice to Your Rivals: How the Government Is Selling an Antitrust Case Without Consumer Harm in United States v. Microsoft," pp. 45-86 in Robert Hahn and Robert Litan, eds., (2000), Did Microsoft Harm Consumers?: Two Opposing Views (Washington: Brookings-AEI: 0844771511)) claim that none of the actions for which Microsoft's is being tried harmed consumers. Schmalensee and his coauthor David Evans claim that "in United States v. Microsoft the government could not show that Microsoft's actions had harmed consumers--or ever would" (p. 45) and that "none of the actions to which the government objects has harmed consumers or is likely to do so" (p. 72). I was surprised. I was surprised because I am a consumer--albeit a small, low-volume one. And I have no doubt that I have been harmed by Microsoft's actions. One concrete case in which I was harmed by Microsoft came a couple of years ago, when I was adding America Online software to one of our home computers to ready it for the internet. Netscape Navigator--at the time the...

Posted by DeLong at 04:58 PM