In The Courtroom At Last (12/11/01)

The saga continues. Last month, Microsoft proposed that it be allowed to settle a hundred or so private antitrust cases by donating over a billion dollars' worth of "cash, products, and services" to thousands of financially-challenged U.S. schools. Since that proposal included some $800 million in free Microsoft software, some people are understandably upset-- such as Steve Jobs, who isn't thrilled with a settlement proposal that a) really lets Microsoft get off cheap, since fully half the bill will be paid in free software which costs almost nothing to duplicate, and b) hands Redmond yet another monopoly by flooding the education market with free copies of Windows, thus effectively nuking Apple's education market share overnight-- without all that tedious mucking about with actual competition.

Well, last week Apple filed a supplemental brief with the judge which amounted to a formal protest, and evidently it did some good. The latest development is that yesterday Apple (in the form of Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary Nancy R. Heinen-- "Only Big Guns Need Apply") actually stated its case before Judge Motz, who is still considering whether or not he should approve the settlement. A ZDNet News article pointed out by faithful viewer Paul Avers reports that Ms. Heinen responded to Microsoft's assertion that the proposal is "very fair and even generous" by asking the judge, "Why would you let a monopolist get a better foothold?"

Microsoft claims that it's "gone to great lengths to make the settlement as 'platform neutral' as possible, and for what it's worth, the company has been making subtle changes to its proposal to give schools a little more leeway when it comes to deciding what platform on which to blow the cash. But the fundamental problem with the deal is that a large chunk of the settlement still comes in the form of free Windows licenses and copies of Windows-only software; since the nation's "poorest schools" can't afford to pass up free software; they'll obviously "choose" Wintels over Macs. Clever. Scummy, but clever.

Apple, as you probably recall, is pushing for Microsoft to donate the money in cold, hard cash, which the schools could then spend on whatever technology they choose. The judge apparently digs the elegance and symmetry of that idea, since it truly promotes competition; indeed, if the schools fairly chose to buy Microsoft products and services with their share of the loot, Redmond would even be winning its money back. So the judge asked Microsoft counsel Tom Burt why that wouldn't be a better solution, to which Burt reportedly replied that such a system "would deny huge benefits to the schools." Sadly, we're not told what those "huge benefits" might be, but we suspect it's probably got something to do with the sheer joy of not having to worry about that pesky concept of choice. Let's see what the judge decides...

SceneLink (3444)
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The above scene was taken from the 12/11/01 episode:

December 11, 2001: Apple gets its day in court to try to put the kibosh on Microsoft's "Free Windows For Schools" settlement proposal. Meanwhile, some people are wondering whether the mystery investor who just gave Palm $50 million likes black turtlenecks and bottled water, and the grandpappy of Mac rumors sites goes AWOL...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3445: Palm's Masked Investor (12/11/01)   Christmas came early this year for diehard Apple PDA conspiracy theorists. The iPod has the more creative rumormongers drooling, because it demonstrates that Apple isn't averse to cranking out handheld electronic consumer devices...

  • 3446: Conservation Of Rumorgy (12/11/01)   For the record, folks, no, we don't know what happened to Mac OS Rumors, although judging by the number of viewers writing in to ask, everybody assumes that everyone in the Apple-centric media business gets together to go bowling every Friday...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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