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US states mooting $10 billion plus fines for MS

Bill Gates says he'll give all his money away. Here's his chance...

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US state attorney generals are considering a remedy that could cost Microsoft tens of billions of dollars, according to reports today. If as expected the current antitrust action goes against Microsoft, the company would be fined for each antitrust violation. And the states are considering whether each sale of a copy of Windows could be counted as a violation. Considering the mind-boggling sums that would add up to, it's difficult to see it happening quite like that, but the notion makes it clear that the states want blood - lots of it. The fines the various US states can levy for antitrust violation vary from a couple of thousand dollars up to $100,000, so if they hit Microsoft for, say, 10 million sales, the tab would be way in excess of $10 billion. Hit Microsoft for all the copies of Windows (Windows 98 just - let's be gentle) shipped and it would come to even more money than Bill Gates has. Obviously, that's not going to happen. But it a remedy that followed this approximate line of thinking might be sustainable. Perhaps a two-track system of fines, where each OEM contract were treated as a violation and retail sales of 98 were also treated as individual violations could be made to stick. This would still add up to the kind of big number the states appear to have in mind, but would be less likely to add up to more money than there is on the planet. ®

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