Appeals court ruling leaves Microsoft in one piece- for now


July 1, 2001


With both Bill Gates and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft claiming victory, it's hard to say what exactly will happen now in the government's anti-trust case against computer software giant Microsoft.

The ruling, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, reverses a lower court's finding on one antitrust violation. The appeals court upheld the ruling that Microsoft did use illegal tactics to keep its monopoly on PC operating system software.

Essentially, the judges said as a company, Microsoft won't have to breakup immediately. The court did uphold the finding that Microsoft used illegal tactics as a monopoly. The court could later find it necessary to split the company apart.

The case goes back to district court, though many industry analysts predict Microsoft and the Department of Justice will agree to a settlement.

Gates, one of the company's founders, said in press reports after the ruling that now is the time for both sides to sit down and settle the matter.

The issue sent back to the lower court was a ruling that Microsoft acted illegally by bundling its Web browser, Internet Explorer, with the Windows operating system.

But Microsoft may still have reason to worry about its antitrust practices.

In its upcoming release of the new Windows XP operating system, Microsoft again appears to bundling a wide array of separate products into one system. In fact, one state attorney general called it "more of the same."

Windows XP will include a video editor, Net telephone service, music file player, Web browser, and a security firewall among them.

Windows XP will be released Oct. 25. By the time the case either comes to an agreed settlement or winds its way through the courts, millions of copies of Windows XP will have been sold.

With Republicans in charge at the Department of Justice and a president who said during his campaign he didn't favor breaking up the company, I expect to see negotiations lead to a settlement within 12-18 months.

MP3 HOAX. Just in time for the holiday, a new virus hoax called MusicPanel warns of a ticking time bomb encoded in the music files traded via Napster or Gnutella file-swapping services.

In a notice broadcast by e-mail and posted on Usenet, computers around the world will crash on July 4, and all the MP3 music files will allegedly be erased.

The warning claims a "new hybrid computer code" named MusicPanel has been buried inside MP3 music files of 500 tunes and distributed over the past eight months.

When activated, the code will allegedly "erase all music files from their computers and any file sharing or MP3 applications" the warning states.

According to the virus myths Web site, the hoax is probably of British or Australian origin.

For more information, visit

EARTHLINK PRICE HIKE. Earthlink, the nation's second largest Internet provider, announced recently it plans to raises the price of its basic, unlimited dial-up Internet service by $2 to $21.95.

The move follows a similar hike a month ago by America Online, which raised its fee from $21.95 to $23.90.

New Earthlink subscribers will begin paying the higher price effective July 2. The hike will affect existing customers on Aug. 1.

For many smaller "mom & pop" Internet providers, the higher prices may make their services even more cost-effective for consumers who don't want to pay more to surf the Internet.

Local providers frequently can compete on price and offer better customer service than a national company -- which is something to think about when you sign up for Internet access.

USENET FOUNDER DIES. Jim Ellis, the co-creater of Usenet, died recently.

Usenet is the Internet's bulletin board, allowing people to share information and post messages and files.

Ellis was a Duke graduate student in 1979 when he and fellow student Tom Truscott thought of linking computers to share information and messages.

By 1980, the network consisted of two sites at Duke and one at the University of North Carolina.

Usenet quickly blossomed into a popular way of trading and sharing information in the days before the World Wide Web existed. More than 30,000 separate newsgroups exist today.

Usenet was the first online "community," and remains very popular today.

For a good primer on Usenet, point your Web browser to

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

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