States’ key witness fails to back Windows ‘unbinding’

13 April 2002 The fifteenth and final ‘expert’ witness testifying on behalf of the nine rebel states in the Microsoft antitrust case has declined to back their proposed remedy that the software giant should sell an ‘unbound’ version of Windows.

Economist Carl Shapiro, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said that he lacks the technical knowledge required to endorse the ‘unbundling’ of Windows as a remedy to Microsoft’s abuses of its monopoly position in the operating systems software market.

One of the remedies proposed by the nine rebel states is that Microsoft should be forced to sell a stripped-down version of Windows, so that PC vendors and users can choose what applications they run with it. The idea is to prevent Microsoft from driving potential competitors out of the market by bundling its alternatives free with the Windows operating system.

However, Shapiro attacked the proposed settlement between Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) because, he said, it failed to properly address Microsoft’s illegal conduct in defence of its operating systems monopoly, which also affected competition in the applications software market.

To help bolster competition in the applications market, Shapiro supported a proposal that would force Microsoft to publicly disclose all application programming interfaces (APIs), as this would help third parties produce software that could closely inter-operate with Microsoft operating systems.

It has long been suspected that Microsoft uses ‘secret APIs’ to enable its software to work better on its Windows operating systems than applications of competitors.

In addition, Shapiro wants to see popular Microsoft applications ported to other platforms, such as the open source operating system Linux. This, he says, will help stimulate competition in the operating system market.

“Microsoft’s rallying cry in this case has been ‘freedom to innovate’. An effective remedy will ensure that Microsoft’s rivals also are free to innovate,” claimed Shapiro in his written testimony. Shapiro was the deputy assistant attorney general for economics in the antitrust division of the DoJ in 1995 and 1996 and has served as an expert witness in a number of antitrust cases.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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