AOL leads charge for MS breakup

Along with AOL, the three IT bodies named in the amici curiae are the Computer & Communications Industry Association, the Software & Information Industry Association, and the Project to Promote Competition & Innovation in the Digital Age, also known as ProComp. ProComp's backers include Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

Among the counsel for ProComp is former US Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, best known for his role as the government's special prosecutor in the Monica Lewinsky scandal that once threatened to topple outgoing US President Bill Clinton.

The 25-page brief covers familiar ground already trodden by parties supporting the DOJ's case, such as Microsoft's violation of US antitrust law as embodied in the Sherman Act and the company's harmful conduct towards its competitors, notably Netscape Communications, now part of AOL.

US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled on June 7 last year that Microsoft should be broken into two parts, after determining that the software giant had abused its monopoly in desktop operating systems to stifle competition. Microsoft appealed the order, which the judge stayed pending the outcome of the appeals process. Both Microsoft and the DOJ are set to engage in oral arguments at the appeals court on February 26 and 27.

The brief also calls for Judge Jackson's conduct remedies against Microsoft to be upheld, which are also being stayed while the appeal is underway.

The core of the case, according to AOL's brief, is "Microsoft's use of a broad range of predatory tactics to maintain its existing monopoly over PC operating systems."

The filing argues that Microsoft's guilt has already been proved by the wealth of material drawn from Microsoft executives' conversations, interviews and e-mails quoted during the antitrust trial in front of Judge Jackson.

"This case is unusual in that Microsoft's senior executives spelled out their plan to monopolise in detail," the brief said. "[Microsoft's documents] spell out not merely an attitude but a clear recognition of the threat to its monopoly and a detailed scheme for suppressing potential rivalry."

The brief dismisses as "figments of lawyers' imaginations" Microsoft's claim that its behaviour in the market was designed to achieve economic efficiencies in its business. The software giant's claim that it linked its Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser to its Windows operating system in order to benefit ISVs (independent software vendors) is a "fictional version of history," the brief argues. The tying of IE to Windows was a central part of the DOJ's case against Microsoft.

The brief alleges that Microsoft's threats to cancel Windows licenses for PC makers who didn't want to install IE was "a naked threat to put OEMs out of business," since Microsoft was the sole source for the OS. "The forced inclusion of IE... wasted valuable computer hard drive space, degraded system performance and caused customer confusion," the brief continued.

By preventing competition in the browser and OS markets, Microsoft also "stifled innovation and limited the competitive potential" of companies such as Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard and IBM since they were effectively prevented from installing non-Microsoft browsers on their PCs and weren't allowed to customise their consumer interfaces, according to the brief. "Similarly, by coercing Intel into abandoning research on software that could have helped other companies compete with Windows, Microsoft hampered innovation and reduced the threat of competition to its operating system monopoly," the brief added.

It's vital to curtail Microsoft's behaviour by splitting the company up, the brief contends, since the software vendor "is already expanding the Windows monopoly to engulf additional technologies that might present alternative platforms." The brief points to Microsoft's behaviour when asked to comply with court decrees in the past. "(T)he record here demonstrates that Microsoft does not take legal obligations seriously and cannot be trusted to comply with them," the brief said. "When the district court tried to enforce the 1995 consent decree, Microsoft responded by proposing to distribute a version of Windows that did not work -- and with a straight face told the court that its order required such a response."

The brief continues, "After more than a decade of antitrust enforcement scrutiny, Microsoft continues to use illegal means to short-circuit competitive challenges to its dominance. The district court properly concluded that it is time for those abuses to end."

Microsoft is "already tying Windows Media Player to Windows" and is pursuing a similar course with other software products including instant messaging, the brief contends. Splitting Microsoft into two companies, one owning the company's operating system, the other its applications including IE, would encourage both units to support non-Microsoft products, hopefully boosting the adoption rate of other operating systems, notably Apple's Mac OS and Linux, the brief argued.

The brief points to the break-up of AT&T, which unleashed "nearly two decades of innovation" and benefited shareholders and customers alike, as a possible template for Microsoft. AT&T had also claimed that it could not be split up without "ruinous results," the brief notes.

"Established principles of competition allow us to predict that the break-up of Microsoft will similarly inject competitive rigour into the industry, likely leading to increased innovation and consumer welfare," the brief states.

The software giant has butted heads with AOL before, notably voicing criticism over AOL's multi-billion US dollar merger with Time Warner, claiming it would harm competition. The merger was completed following the official go-ahead from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late Thursday.

AOL's brief can be read on the Web at

Earlier Friday, the DOJ filed its own brief with the Appeals Court in which it defended both Judge Jackson's ruling, as well as the judge himself. The software vendor is due to submit its response to the DOJ's filing on January 29.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Clare Haney

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?