DoJ document details how MS harmed consumers

Helps deal with gap in government's case

MS on Trial The DoJ has, at last, produced a concise summary as to why and how consumers were harmed and will continue to be harmed by Microsoft's actions. It relies on the fact that antitrust laws are based on the principle that the wilful maintenance of a monopoly harms consumers, and that the Supreme Court has repeatedly held this. The heavy footprints of monopolisation inevitably lead to consumer harm, it seems. The DoJ deals with consumer harm caused when choice is restricted or removed, and more generally, how consumers suffer as a result of Microsoft's middleware threats. By restricting what OEMs may distribute - usually by offering financial inducements in the form of so-called "market development agreements" - Microsoft has made it more costly for alternative browsers to be promoted and distributed, thereby lessening the likely choice for consumers. Contractual restrictions imposed on ISPs and others by Microsoft also restricted user choice of browsers. In addition, welding the browser to the OS increased the cost of obtaining and using non-Microsoft browsers, and generally made it more difficult. Finally, users were denied the benefits of innovation unimpeded by Microsoft's abuse of its operating system monopoly. More generally, the DoJ suggests that Microsoft's control over standards helps to maintain its OS monopoly, so removing user choice; that Microsoft will be able to control the future directions for hardware and software; and that in effect Microsoft would be able to approve or disapprove innovations by competitors, and use predation against innovations that it regards as threatening. The DoJ could have done a better job of presenting its case for consumer harm, and perhaps it will do so in the hearing on 21 September. In some respects, the DoJ has been thwarted by only being allowed 12 witnesses, since it did not have a witness to flesh out the consumer harm aspect. It does appear that there is no legal need for the DoJ to prove harm to consumers (because proof of monopolisation is sufficient to show this), but by not doing so, it has allowed Microsoft to make the considerable propaganda point that the DoJ has not demonstrated consumer harm. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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