We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee hosted a range of software industry executives and public policy advocates to discuss the settlement reached in the Microsoft antitrust case and the efforts of 9 state attorneys general to impose a far more punitive remedy.

Erick Gustafson, Director of Citizens for a Sound Economy’s Federal and State Campaigns issued the following statement:

“While far from ideal, the settlement reached between Microsoft, the Justice Department, and 9 states should be the last chapter in this 3-year-old case. There never was a good time to pursue this baseless suit, but continuing it now threatens to prolong the 8-month old economic slowdown, as well as increase the severity of the technology sector’s 18-month decline. In this time of economic uncertainty, we need businesses that stimulate demand for other products throughout their industry to get back to work, not encounter new obstacles to growth.

“Unfortunately, 9 state attorneys general, and many in the software industry with whom they consult, do not agree. They are quite prepared to hold the economy hostage until their demands are met. But these demands are not only far beyond the scope of the appeals’ court decision, they are fundamentally at odds with the interests of consumers. Their plan to restrict the functions that Windows can legally offer would be like preventing car manufactures from selling anything more than a chassis with an engine.

“Imagine the consumer outrage at such a scenario: ‘Leather seats? Sorry, Lear Leather Corp. is the middleware provider you’ll need to see. Stereo equipment and speakers? You’ll need to stop by Kenwood and Infinity for those. Brakes? Don’t worry; your NAPA dealer can equip you.’

“Yet this is precisely what Microsoft’s competitors, and the state attorneys general they have co-opted, are trying to do to the software market. Their demands are so extreme that they want to rob Microsoft of the ability to improve its products, while raising prices, discouraging innovation, and burdening consumers in the process.

“Worse, their proposed settlement not only prevents Microsoft from adding functions, it actually requires Windows to carry rivals’ software. With compatible middleware, such as Sun’s Java, available ‘just in time,’ there is absolutely no reason for this provision to be included. Unless, of course, it was written with the expressed wishes of certain software companies in mind. But Java is not like a local CBS affiliate; “must carry” regulation is inconsistent with the appeals’ court ruling and completely out-of-place in the dynamic software market.”

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