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January 22, 2007

More revelations at the Microsoft antitrust trial

Posted by David Hunter at 1:18 PM ET.

Last week the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Microsoft Iowa antitrust trial were granted an unusual request.

The plaintiffs in Iowa’s class-action antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. claim they have uncovered information that indicates the software company is violating its 2002 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The alleged misconduct surrounds Microsoft’s duty to share software hooks known as application programming interfaces, or APIs, which let disparate programs work together. The Iowa plaintiffs’ attorneys have alleged that Microsoft has not disclosed certain APIs to other software developers who want to make programs compatible with Microsoft software.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Roxanne Conlin asked the judge in the Iowa case, Scott Rosenberg, for permission to tell the Justice Department and the Iowa attorney general what her side knows. Rosenberg responded that she could provide the information if a court order or a subpoena is issued for it.

Why they would need the judge’s permission to drop a dime is explained  better in the legal wrangling starting at page 7654 of the transcript from January 10, but Groklaw summarizes it nicely and observes that the DOJ regularly gets complaints about Microsoft’s adherence to the settlement, most of which are “non-substantive.” It’s hard to tell what the importance of this complaint is without details, but it is apparently making the stock market nervous.

Less serious, but certainly more amusing was the disclosure of yet another frank email from Microsoft executive Jim Allchin (previous revealed missive here). This one from 2003 lamented that Microsoft’s PlaysForSure partners were “sucking on media players” and suggesting that Microsoft open up a dialog with Apple about supporting the iPod.

Amir Majidimehr (Corporate Vice President, Consumer Media Technology Group) responded that they were offering the partners incentives and advice on how to do better; expressed hope for the upcoming Microsoft designed Portable Media Center form factor; and observed that Microsoft might yet have to roll up their sleeves to do it right.

Of course, the Microsoft Portable Media Center initiative sank like a stone along with some more partners and that’s why Microsoft built the Zune. While the PlaysForSure hardware of that era may have “sucked”, today it sure “sucks” to be a Microsoft PlaysForSure partner, not to mention a Portable Media Center partner.

Finally, Microsoft shipping their own personal media player hardware because of perceived partner ineptness sets an interesting precedent. Right now Microsoft seems to be dismissive of the PCs their OEM partners are turning out and currently is in the “help them do better” stage. One can’t help but wonder how soon that will be followed by Microsoft “rolling up their sleeves and doing it right.”

Filed under Antitrust, Apple, Argo, Coopetition, Creative, Dell, General Business, Governmental Relations, Hardware, Legal, Microsoft, PlaysForSure, Portable Media Center, Portable Media Center, Technologies, Windows Mobile, Zune, iriver

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4 Responses to “More revelations at the Microsoft antitrust trial”

  1. Bob Says:

    “One can’t help but wonder how soon that will be followed by Microsoft “rolling up their sleeves and doing it right.””

    Would that be like a ZUNE PC, or one that takes 5 years to build like Vista? PC vendors would do more if the margins supported it. MSFT has let these guys get beaten down to pennies on the $, and then wonders why none are particularly keen to invest in additional R&D. If you’re in the commodity business, you ship vanilla and watch your costs. MSFT should be working with these guys to defray some of the R&D hit – after all, it’s in their best interests and it’s not like MSFT isn’t already spending a fortune in R&D for unclear returns.

  2. David Hunter Says:

    I was thinking along the lines of a “Zune PC.” Massively funded, massively hyped, but not all that much different and leaving a trail of abandoned partners in its wake. And as you say, “unclear returns.”

  3. Microsoft settles Iowa antitrust suit -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] The antitrust suit against Microsoft in the state of Iowa which had produced a variety of bad press for Microsoft in recent weeks (e.g. [1], [2], [3]) has been settled: A class-action lawsuit that alleged Microsoft Corp. overcharged consumers was settled Wednesday for an undisclosed amount. [...]

  4. US antitrust regulators dismiss Iowa Microsoft API complaint -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Overshadowed by last week’s news that Microsoft was modifying Vista desktop search integration to satisfy a Google complaint to US antitrust regulators, was the positive resolution for Microsoft by these same regulators of a complaint by the plaintiffs in the Iowa antitrust case. This complaint alleged that Microsoft had violated the the US antitrust settlement by not disclosing APIs and had caused a brief flurry back in January. Filed under Legal, Governmental Relations, General Business, Antitrust, Microsoft [...]

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