An antitrust lawsuit filed against Intel by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission may not go to court after all, not if the two sides can agree on a settlement.
That seemed unlikely just a short time ago, but in a statement earlier this week, Intel said lawyers for both sides have gone and filed a joint motion to suspend trial proceedings while the two parties try to hammer out a settlement they each can live with.
Terms of the proposed order are considered confidential, and neither side is willing to comment any further. What is known, however, is that the motion gives Intel and the FTC until July 22 to review the case and cut a deal.
The original complaint dates back to late 2009. Shortly after Intel settled antitrust and patent disputes with AMD for $1.25 billion, the FTC filed complaints of their own charging the world's largest microprocessor player with anti-competitive business practices.
Sources are reporting today that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are wrangling over which one of them should lead a preliminary antitrust investigation of Apple. The action was spurred by Apple's new developer agreement which forces app designers to use only Apple programming tools. The inquiry may be launched in a matter of days, and will seek to determine if the policy damages competition in the mobile app space.
Apple's claim has been that adding a layer of abstraction (i.e. a third-party compiler) results in poorer quality apps; thus requiring specific developer tools is a quality control mechanism. Those on the other side, however, claim that Apple is seeking to force developers to choose Apple's platform instead of porting their code to multiple platforms. The worry is that independent developers won't have the resources to rewrite code for multiple platforms, so they will choose Apple's larger and more lucrative app store be default.
The possible inquiry does not mean anything is about to change. The preliminary analysis will determine if a full investigation is required. Do you think Apple is a fault here? How much control should they be allowed to exercise over their platform?
The FTC appears to be preparing to officially challenge Google's acquisition of AdMob on anti-trust grounds. Google has long insisted that the deal will not hinder competition. Sources say the FTC has asked AdMob's competitors to testify about the possible effect on the mobile advertizing industry should the deal go through.
Google announced the deal in November of last year, and the FTC took immediate interest. The Big G stated in December that the FTC was investigating the matter. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Google said, " Mobile-app advertising is less than two years old; there are more than a dozen mobile-ad networks." Google may have reason to worry as Apple is rumored to be gearing up for an entry inot the mobile ad space.
Google is still framing the situation with the FTC as a discussion, and not an adversarial legal battle. They are treading lightly hoping to get the deal approved, but all signs point to problems. Do you think the FTC has reason to fear a Google/AdMob deal?
Is Microsoft waging a proxy legal war against Google? The answer is a big fat yes, if Google's Ohio-based attorney Mark Sheriff is to be believed. The war is being waged on many fronts and Google finds itself beset by lawsuits, allegedly backed by Microsoft, in both the U.S and Europe. According to a Wall Street Journal report, there is evidence to suggest that Microsoft is slyly aiding Google's rivals in court.
A recent 24-page antitrust lawsuit against Google by an Ohio-based internet site is a case in point. Although on the face of it nothing seems amiss – a small firm countering Google's lawsuit with a complaint of its own, the plot thickens the moment the name of one Charles “Rick” Rule crops up as the small internet firm's legal counsel. Charles Rule, an attorney with the D.C law firm Cadwalader, counts Microsoft among his illustrious clients. He is also representing another small firm against Google in a separate lawsuit.
"It's not every day that a big D.C. law firm like Cadwalader gets involved in a collections lawsuit in Ohio,” Google attorney Mark Sheriff told the Wall Street Journal. In Europe, a series of antitrust complaints from various companies, including one of Microsoft's German subsidiaries, is also cited as part of Microsoft's legal war with Google. The European Commission has ordered a preliminary inquiry against Google after taking cognizance of the anti-trust complaints. What does Microsoft stand to gain from all this?
No sooner did Microsoft settle its antitrust woes with the European union, than it turned around and allegedly threw Google under the very same bus. Up until now little has been known about Redmond's involvement, but ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley has confirmed Microsoft executives have been in contact with EU regulators in recent months about Google's monopolistic position in search. In addition to direct involvement, they even owned up to encouraging others to come forward to register similar complaints. As many commenter's are likely to point out, the irony of Microsoft's complaint isn't lost on us. Based on all the antitrust woes they have been forced to endure in the past, they seem likely a pretty unlikely candidate to spark this debate against Google.
For its part, Microsoft is trying to explain its viewpoint with its "On The Issues Blog", but it's a pretty thick read full of legalese. The closing arguments however do a pretty good job of summing it up. "Microsoft would obviously be among the first to say that leading firms should not be punished for their success. Nor should firms be punished just because a particular business practice may harm a rival-competition on the merits can do that, too. That is a position that Microsoft has long espoused, and we're sticking to it. Our concerns relate only to Google practices that tend to lock in business partners and content (like Google Books) and exclude competitors, thereby undermining competition more broadly."
This could be the start of a very public, very bloody war between Google and Microsoft.
Microsoft isn't usually the type of company that likes to compare itself with Apple, but in its anti-trust case over the Xbox 360, they are borrowing a page from Steve Jobs legal manual to justify the walled garden that is "Xbox Live". According to Microsoft, if Apple can prevent Psystar from selling unauthorized hardware with OSX, why shouldn't they be able to stop unauthorized accessories from being sold on the Xbox 360?
The company at the heart of the lawsuit is hoping to sell a game genie type device to allow in-game cheating, but if aftermarket accessories were to become a real possibility, I'm sure they wouldn't be the only ones to hop on the bandwagon. I know at least a few PC Gamers who have taken issue with SSD style prices for 5400 RPM laptop upgrade drives simply because they have no other choice.
Datel argues that Microsoft is monopolizing the market for "Multiplayer Online Dedicated Gaming Systems". This won't be an easy thing to prove, but do you think Microsoft is up to its old monopolistic tricks again?
If Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Verizon, and DirecTV get their way, you'll soon be able to watch television shows and movies on your computer and other digital devices, so long as you subscribe to both television and high-speed Internet services. The plan is part of an industry-wide 'TV Everywhere' initiative, but not everyone is stoked about the idea.
Fearful that television service providers will dominate the online video landscape, push out smaller competitors, and charge consumers unnecessarily high monthly subscription fees, public interest groups have begun sending out letters to the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the TV Everywhere plan.
"TV Everywhere is designed to eliminate competition at a pivotal moment in the history of television," said Marvin Ammori, a law professor at the University of Nebraska and senior adviser to Free Press. "The antitrust authorities should not stand by and let the cable cartel crush Internet TV before it gets off the ground."
Naturally, the cable companies and TV service providers don't agree.
"That fact that market participants are experimenting with models in addition to fee- or advertiser-supported models is not a sign of anti-competitive conduct," said Kyle McSlarrow, chief executive of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. "It is a sign of a dynamic and rapidly changing market in which no one knows the ultimate outcome."
There are three main thrusts to the FTC’s complaint against Intel. The first is that Intel used its dominate position in the market to cow computer makers, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, to buy only Intel CPUs. Intel would either threaten to withhold product, or enter into exclusive deals with computer makers that prevented them from marketing computers built with chips from other makers, such as CPUs from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
Second, according to the FTC, Intel designed crucial software, which the FTC identifies as a “compiler”, so it deliberately hampered the performance of chips from competitors. Intel failed to disclose their tinkering with the software, thus deceived computer makers about the performance differences between Intel and its competitors.
Third, the FTC says that Intel is now engaging in these same tactics in the graphics processing market. The FTC argues that GPUs are becoming more powerful, lessening the need for sophisticated CPUs, which undermines Intel’s market dominance. To protect its position, Intel is waging its battle against the likes of Nvidia, over which it holds a substantial financial and market advantage.
According to Richard A. Feinstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, “Intel has engaged in a deliberate campaign to hamstring competitive threats to its monopoly. It's been running roughshod over the principles of fair play and the laws protecting competition on the merits. The Commission’s action today seeks to remedy the damage that Intel has done to competition, innovation, and, ultimately, the American consumer.”
Before Rudolph and company head for the skies next week, you may spot a flying pig or two gliding through the clouds. That's the sort of thing that tends to happen when the world turns topsy-turvy, as it seemingly has after the European Commission announced today that it has settled its remaining antitrust issues with Microsoft and is abandoning its case against the software giant.
The two sides have been in dispute for the better part of a decade, and as it turns out, all Microsoft had to do was agree to a legally binding commitment to start marketing rivals' browsers next to its own Internet Explorer.
"Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use," said Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
A curious statement, considering European consumers have had that choice all along, as did anyone else who chose to run Windows. But regardless of Kroes' poor choice of wording, the issue at hand was the belief that Microsoft was stifling innovation by only including Internet Explorer in Windows, which gave the company a distribution advantage that didn't necessarily reflect a superior browser.
Under terms of the agreement, Microsoft will deliver a ballot screen consisting of its own Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari, and Opera Software's ASA browser for a five-year period. In addition, OEMs will be allowed to decide for themselves which browser to pre-install, and may turn IE off completely, if they so wish, the Commission said.
Oracle has been having a tough time convincing European Union regulators that its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems is the best thing for all involved, but maybe things are about to change. Or at least that's what Oracle's hoping, once Neelie Kroes, the European Commission's Competition Commissioner for the past five years, finishes her term In January.
EC regulators are expected to make a decision on January 27, 2010 on whether or not a combined Oracle and Sun corporation will be allowed to conduct business in the 27 EU countries. By then, a new Competition Commissioner could be put in place, giving Oracle a fresh set of ears to plead its case.
That doesn't mean Oracle is out of the woods. According to eWeek, a "source close to the situation" says Kroes will still have some influence over the EC's decision. Even worse (for Oracle), eWeek says the sources they've been talking to say it's unlikely that the EU will change its stance, even with a new official put in place.