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Dell moves to keep MS OEM numbers under wraps

The figures will be dealt with in closed court session today, and Dell wants to keep it closed

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Late last week Dell moved to keep details of its OEM relationship with Microsoft secret. Microsoft OEM data is due to be covered in a closed session of the court later today (Related Story), but several news organisations have been trying to have the sessions made public. This mirrors the pre-trial arguments over whether or not depositions should be taken in public - the news outfits originally won that one, but in the case of the OEM figures, their chances don’t seem good. Microsoft wrangled long and hard over the level of access the DoJ would get to the numbers, with some reason, because they really are the crown jewels. The DoJ’s view is that it can use Microsoft pricing, volume and bundling deal data plus associated restriction clauses to show that Microsoft uses monopoly power to maintain and to enhance its dominant position. Its pricing does vary by volume, through exclusivity agreements and by OEM, and the argument in court today will therefore be over whether there is a nefarious pattern to this or whether - as Microsoft will no doubt maintain - the outfits that buy the most product from Microsoft obviously get the best prices. Dell, naturally, is one of the outfits that buys the most product from Microsoft, and as a long-term down-the-line Wintel partisan could (one speculates) be fruitful territory for the investigators. One recalls that when Bill Gates was, after initial squirming, hauled before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify last year, one Michael Dell was one of the supporters Bill hauled in to speak in his favour. Mikey was of course crashingly dull, but his heart was in the right place, so there’s a certain piquancy to the latest legal manoeuvring. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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