Dave Kopel 柯大為研究論壇 > 美國微軟公司後之反托拉斯

美国微软公司后反托拉斯:

数字时代反托拉斯的退化

摘錄:1/2 2001
作者:David Kopel 柯大為
出版商:中心學會01/01/2001

20012月, 中心学会发行了第九部书:美国微软后的反托拉斯:数字时代反托拉斯的退化,作者是大卫B科伯全书共170页,购价为8.95美元(含运费)邮购地址:芝加哥伊利诺斯洲60603 LaSalle19街道南部903室,中心学会。或通过中心在线商店订购:www.heartland.org.

美国V微软公司在1998年五月被美国司法部和19个洲首席检查官带来的反托拉斯诉讼标志着反托拉斯法律理论,立法及行动时代的结束。21世纪的反托拉斯政策完全不同与19世纪法律被初写的时候或二十世纪用于一系列地标的案例来定义今天的争论条款。

微软诉讼的提出,这本书寻求的答案,许多重要的关于在技术迅速变化的时代反托拉斯生存能力问题。政府调节进度缓慢使得政策上忽略了他们的行动,还没来得及做出判断技术就就席卷了产品和竞争。反托拉斯法律的含糊使之在合股和砍价成为标准的商业行为的信息技术业特别危险。微软事例和反托拉斯执行的历史揭示了市场规范那些试图吸取垄断利益的公司的能力。最终,最好的选择就是撤销SHERMAN ACT,国家主要的反托拉斯法律

1.技术改变比调节运行更快

信息技术业(IT)如此迅速的变化,明察的人们造了“因特网时代”这样的词来来追寻其发展轨迹。法则是三个月的因特网时代相当于标准时代的一年。

1998微软被告后,计算机的功能,存储信息量及数据传输速度显著地增加了。产品在微软情形的核心已经消失,迅速变化并被其它取代或合并,或被出售。结果对于在1998年研究微软的法学家及陪审员们对产品前景几乎模糊不清。

每一次技术的变化并不意味着微软情形应停止,当然也不是说微软被指控的非法商业行为是无辜的。但应该清楚的是:微软行动并没有停止,也没有放慢技术革新的速度。在大多数的可能的技术革新中,微软仍引导主流。

新产品的增殖及产品价格的降低使二十世纪九十年代微软所谓的垄断产品伤害了消费者这一断言很难成立。九十年代所发生的事更合适的解释是吸引到IT业的资金是因为政府的微调。因此可以改革并迅速发展。更多的调节可能会扼杀金鹅。

2.出现新的竞争者来挑战微软优势

变化中的技术改变了微软的竞争市场。曾一度抱怨微软市场强大的竞争者通过竞争者之间的合并,自己也变成巨头。微软面临着那些能提供十年前还没发明出来的软硬件产品公司的激烈竞争。

微软的核心产业-手写个人电脑操统正面临着来自LINUX和Apple(略小一点)的严峻挑战,计算机处理重心从PC转为如因特网用具,个人数字助手,有网络功能的电话及其它用具设备。

竞争者包括那些曾追随反托拉斯审判的人们所熟悉的名字:AOL, Netscape, Sun, and Oracle但是许多新句子被加到名单上:Sega, Sony, Red Hat, Symbian, Phone.com, Netphone, AT&T/TCI, 3Com, Yahoo!, Excite, 甚至还有微软的前同盟Intel. 还有一些象Red Hat正使用Linux 为控制PC操作系统市场与微软展开白刃战。其它致力于通过使用非PC设备做PC曾经做的事或通过使用作一操作系统的计算机能识别的手写语言程序来收缩市场。

十年前(因特网时代)微软是否是个垄断者者是有可争议的。但是今天毫无疑问,微软面临着来自各方比以前更加严峻的竞争。

当桌面PC电脑的老战场变得与消费者及IT业越来越无关的时候,作为专利者的微软的处理基本原理是随着每个月蒸发。

3.微软的行为并不是如人们想象中的垄断者。

微软推出的窗口,微软办公软件及因特网处理器对他们当前的市场主导地位并不体现“进入障碍软件”路径依靠或任一非市场因素的效果。相反,它显出微软软件的高容量/低价格稳定,不断提高的产品质量及出众的客户服务策略。

巨大的市场份额可能是新的数字经济的固有特点。也许是因为固定价格高,边缘价格低或是由于电子商务允许消费者比以往经济时代更快更准确地选择最好的产品的原因。不管什么原因,几乎没有迹象表明微软市场力量紊乱,或消费者将来青睐于微软的竞争者而离开微软。

The Sherman Act语言是如此含糊以致于现在的美国商业不管从事什么商业行为都会被起诉建造如此大的网络给政治家及政府官员极大的权力驾驭锁定的公司。那些Adam Smith the Founding Fathers的深思的观察家们及今天的许多经济学家会说成是与有效运行经济所需要的正好相反的权力。

4.微软的商业行为是赞成消费者的。

IT业和其它产业一些公司通常合法地使用被司法部门定义为反竞争的同样的商业行为。微软公司在激烈竞争中,以高质量低价格的策略来标窗口及应用软件价格。它的让利给计算机厂商便于他们开发新的窗口版本(包括充分利用窗口的硬件,窗口名称升级 )是其它致力于消费者受益产业的标准行为。

反托拉斯审判法院把在因特网邮件上发现的折扣,侵略性语言及和Sun Microsystems争执的合同作为反托拉斯违例的证据表明反托拉斯法是如此容易地被用来反对任一个公司,甚至一个停靠不断提高产品质量,降低价格而成功的公司。不管太阳和微软合同争执的最终结果是什么,合同解释的冲突不是一个反托拉斯违例,不应该做为反托拉斯事例的中心。

5.微软通过生产更好的产品赢得“浏览器战争”

Netscape的浏览器垄断网络浏览器市场三年,当微软推出因特网探测器,逐渐提高产品质量并在1997年开始为广大用户提供免费的IE,鼓励其它公司整合他们的程序时它便失去了垄断地位由于美国在线获得Netscape,浏览器很可能在2001年再次引领市场。

很奇怪司法部门会选择忽略Netscape过去的垄断和反消费者行为(过去和现在),相反把那些打破垄断市场,放弃优质产品的公司作为目标。反对微软用于提高IE的窗口及总是致力于使消费者受益的的商业行为不能被排除也是这样。

为什么反对微软如此合法地进行:公司是过去行业政策的牺牲品。政府官员试图挑选赢家:他们错误地认为网络浏览器可能成为应用平台,最终帮助另一个公司成功地与微软的操作系统市场竞争。微软用自己的网络浏览器开发市场的决定毁灭了他们的计划而使之大为尴尬。大多数计算机杂志读者说微软的浏览器比规定的浏览器要好得多。

6.法官杰克逊所提出的惩罚微软受到的指挥无关

施加在微软的赔偿(除了一个例外)与所谓的微软违法行为毫无关系。分解公司为操作和应用软件公司的提议完全超出了停止反竞争行为的需要。这个命令是偏激的(无先例),似乎反映了蒙羞的法官及司法部的愤怒而不是真诚地试图公正。

不奇怪的是,与所谓的罪行无关的惩罚不能产生所期望的结果。消费者不会帮忙的,据研究解散微软将迫使美国消费者三年内在软件上花费500亿到1250亿美元。竞争不会出现了。(不再被鼓励的)革新将被司法局部门压地掌下。所有公司及领先新的数字技术的产业都将受到直接损害,或由于提议的赔偿受到间接损失。新的数字技术将很难也不会去发现。

7.反托拉斯问题提早了数字时代和微软案例

回顾反托拉斯法律及起诉表明原立法内容是保护生产者免于低价而不是消费者远离垄断权力。反托拉斯事例大多数都牵涉到降价,消费者受益而不是垄断者滥用他们市场权力的场所。

细看反托拉斯注目焦点:1906年的标准油事例,1937Alcoa事例,1981年解散AT&T—漠视消费者独裁统治的两样版本,司法局政治干预在1998年微软事例重现。这些事例的误解是由许多事实及用于保护反托拉斯法律免于批评差不多全部的词汇构成的。

高科技公司可以借鉴运输业的历史同窗他们面临的选择。铁路业采取笨拙的规则结果创造的是无效及延续到现在的破产。比如今天的客运火车占总旅行量的不到1%。鲜明的对比是受制于规则较轻的汽车行业。今天,汽车行业具有革新,发展,响应消费者等特点。

8.反托拉斯法律应该修改或完全撤销

微软迫害不是孤立的过度诉讼事例。它是二十一世纪初反托拉斯的旗舰事例。司法部反托拉斯部响亮地承诺美国微软事例是更多数字经济事例跟随的前锋。信息公司及所有停靠他们的公司结果确实是可怕的。

如果美国微软是反托拉斯公司提供给美国人最好的,那么也就没有理由保持the Sherman Act。今天的the Sherman Act一如既往:失败的竞争者不通过自由市场满足消费者而赢得政治舞台工具数据时代最快的步法是依靠没过去更具防御力的政府官僚。撤销有害的the Sherman Act是一个很长的时间

This article is a summary of the book Antitrust After Microsoft. (Chicago: Heartland Institute, 2001). Summary of the book. Review of the book. 

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Antitrust after Microsoft: The Obsolescence of Antitrust in the Digital Era

Excerpt: January/February 2001
Author: David B. Kopel
Published: The Heartland Institute 01/01/2001

In February 2001, The Heartland Institute released its ninth book: Antitrust After Microsoft: The Obsolescence of Antitrust in the Digital Era, by David B. Kopel. The 170-page book may be purchased for $8.95 (plus $3.00 shipping and handling) from The Heartland Institute, 19 South LaSalle Street #903, Chicago, IL 60603; phone 312/377-4000. Or order through Heartland's online store at www.heartland.org.


U.S. v. Microsoft Corporation, the antitrust lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and 19 state attorneys general in May 1998 against Microsoft Corporation, marked the end of an era of antitrust law theory, legislation, and action. Antitrust policy in the twenty-first century will be far different from what it was in the nineteenth, when the laws were first written, or in the twentieth, when it was put to use in a series of landmark cases that define the terms of the debate today.

The Microsoft case raises, and this book seeks to answer, a number of important questions about the viability of antitrust in an era of rapid technological change. Government regulators must often proceed slowly to allow political oversight of their actions, allowing technology to sweep away products and competitors long before judgments are reached. The vagueness of antitrust law makes it particularly hazardous for the information technology industry, where partnerships and price-cutting are standard business practices. The Microsoft case and the history of antitrust enforcement reveal the ability of markets to discipline companies that attempt to extract monopoly profits. Ultimately, the best path to take may be to repeal the Sherman Act, the country's principal antitrust law.


1. Technology is changing faster than regulators can move.

The information technology (IT) industry is changing so rapidly observers have coined the phrase "Internet Time" to track its progress. A rule of thumb is that three months of Internet Time equal one year of Standard Time.

Since 1998, when U.S. vs. Microsoft was filed, phenomenal increases have occurred in the power of computers, their ability to store information, and the speed of data transmission. Products at the core of the Microsoft case have disappeared, changed dramatically, been superceded by others, or been sold or merged with others. The result is a product landscape that would be almost unrecognizable to a juror or jurist studying Microsoft in 1998.

Technological change per se does not mean the Microsoft case ought to be dropped. It certainly does not mean Microsoft is innocent of the illegal business practices it is charged with. What is clear, though, is that Microsoft's actions have not stopped or even slowed the rate of technological innovation. Indeed, Microsoft products continue to play a major role in making much of that innovation possible.

The proliferation of new products and falling prices makes it difficult to defend the assertion that consumers were harmed during the 1990s by Microsoft's alleged monopolistic conduct. A much more likely explanation of what happened during the 1990s is that capital gravitated to the IT industry because it was lightly regulated by government and therefore able to innovate and grow rapidly. More regulation would kill the golden goose.


2. New competitors have emerged to challenge Microsoft's dominance.

Changing technology has transformed the market in which Microsoft competes. Competitors who once complained of Microsoft's market power have now merged with other competitors and become behemoths themselves. Microsoft faces serious competition from companies offering software and hardware products that weren't even invented ten Internet Years ago.

Microsoft's core business-­writing the operating systems of personal computers­-is under serious challenge from Linux and (to a lesser extent) Apple. The center of gravity for computing is shifting away from the PC and onto such devices as Internet appliances, personal digital assistants, Web-enabled telephones, and other tools.

Competitors include names familiar to those who followed the antitrust trial--AOL, Netscape, Sun, and Oracle--but many new names have been added to the list: Sega, Sony, Red Hat, Symbian, Phone.com, Netphone, AT&T/TCI, 3Com, Yahoo!, Excite, and even Microsoft's former ally, Intel. Some, like Red Hat, are using Linux to compete with Microsoft head-to-head for control of the PC operating system market. Others work to shrink that market by using non-PC devices to do what PCs used to do, and by writing programs in languages that can be read by computers using any operating system.

It was debatable a decade ago (Internet Time) whether Microsoft was a monopoly, but it is indisputable today that Microsoft faces intense competition from more directions than ever before. The rationale for treating Microsoft as a monopolist is evaporating with each passing month as the old battleground of the desktop PC becomes less and less relevant to consumers and to the IT industry.


3. Microsoft has not acted in the manner expected of a monopolist.

The story of the rise of Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer to their current positions of market dominance does not reveal the effects of an "applications barrier to entry," "path dependence," or any other non-market forces. Instead, it shows the steady application of Microsoft's high-volume/low-price strategy combined with continuous improvements to product quality and, in some cases, superior customer service.

Large market shares may be an inherent characteristic of the new Digital Economy, perhaps due to high fixed costs and low marginal costs or the fact that e-commerce allows consumers to identify and choose superior products much more quickly and accurately than they could in the Old Economy. Either way, there is little evidence that Microsoft has inordinate market power today or that consumers would be better off if Microsoft's competitors were somehow favored in the future.

The Sherman Act's language is so vague that any business operating in America today could be targeted for prosecution no matter what business practices it engages in. By casting so wide a net, it gives politicians and government officials discretionary power over which companies to target, a power that thoughtful observers from Adam Smith and the Founding Fathers to many economists today would say is just the opposite of what is needed for an economy to operate efficiently.

The same business practices defined as anti-competitive by the Department of Justice are routinely and legally used by other companies in the IT industry and in other industries. Microsoft priced Windows and its applications in the fashion of a company knowing it has powerful competitors ready to enter the market unless prices are kept low and quality high. Its practice of giving discounts to computer manufacturers who help develop new versions of Windows, include hardware to take full advantage of Windows, and promote the Windows name is a standard practice in other industries that works to the benefit of consumers.

That the antitrust trial court found discounts, aggressive language in internal emails, and a contract disagreement with Sun Microsystems to be evidence of antitrust violations shows how easily antitrust laws can be manipulated against almost any company--even a company whose success depends on continuously improving its products and lowering its prices. Whatever the ultimate result of the Sun/Microsoft contract dispute, a conflict over contract interpretation is not an antitrust violation and ought not to be at the center of an antitrust suit.


5. Microsoft won the "browser wars" by producing a better product.

For three years, Netscape's Navigator had a monopoly in the Web browser market. It lost that monopoly when Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer (IE), gradually improved its quality, and in 1997 started giving IE to retail customers for free and encouraging other companies to integrate it into their programs. Due to America Online's acquisition of Netscape, Navigator is likely to once again be the market leader sometime in 2001.

It is puzzling that the Department of Justice would choose to overlook Netscape's monopolist past and anti-consumer practices (past and present) and target instead the company that broke up a monopolized market and gives away a superior product. As was true of the case against Windows, the business practices used by Microsoft to promote IE were not exclusionary, and invariably worked to the benefit of consumers.

So why the legal jihad against Microsoft? The company was a victim of industrial policy gone awry. Government officials tried to "pick a winner": a Web browser they thought, wrongly, had the potential of becoming an applications platform that could eventually help another company compete successfully with Microsoft Windows in the operating system market. Microsoft's decision to launch and aggressively market its own Web browser--a browser that most computer magazine reviewers now say is superior to the regulators' Chosen One--ruined the plan and embarrassed its authors.


6. The punishment proposed by Judge Jackson bears no relation to the charges against Microsoft.

The remedies imposed against Microsoft (with one exception) have nothing to do with the company's supposed illegal conduct. In particular, the proposed breakup of the company into Operating and Applications Companies goes far beyond whatever would be necessary to stop anti-competitive behavior. The order is radical (without precedent) and seems to reflect the resentment of a humiliated judge and Department of Justice, rather than a sincere attempt to attain justice.

Unsurprisingly, the punishments that would bear no relation to the alleged crimes would also fail to produce the desired outcomes. Consumers would not be helped. Breaking up Microsoft, according to one study, would force American consumers to spend $50 billion to $125 billion more for software over a three-year period. Competition would not emerge. Innovation, far from being encouraged, would be squashed under the thumb of Department of Justice bureaucrats. All companies and all industries that rely on the new digital technologies--and it is increasingly difficult to find any that do not--would be hurt directly or indirectly by the proposed remedies.


7. The problems with antitrust pre-date the Digital Era and the Microsoft case.

A review of the history of antitrust laws and prosecutions reveals that the original intent of lawmakers was to protect producers from low prices, rather than consumers from monopoly power. Antitrust cases are most likely to be invoked when prices are falling and consumers are benefiting, rather than in instances where monopolists are abusing their market power.

A close look at "antitrust's greatest hits"--the Standard Oil case of 1906, the Alcoa case in 1937, and the breakup of AT&T in 1981--reveals the same patterns of arbitrary rulings, disregard for consumers, and political interference with the administration of justice as were on display in the Microsoft case of 1998. Misinterpretations of these cases constitutes many of the "facts" and nearly all of the vocabulary used to defend antitrust law from its critics.

High-tech companies can look at the history of the transportation industry for insight into the choices they face. The railroad industry took the path of heavy-handed regulation, which created a legacy of inefficiency and bankruptcy that continues to the current day. Passenger trains today, for example, account for less than 1 percent of all trips. In sharp contrast is the automobile industry, which was subject to relatively light regulation. Today that industry is characterized by innovation, growth, and responsiveness to consumers.

8. Antitrust laws ought to be revised or repealed entirely.

The Microsoft persecution is not an isolated case of prosecutorial excess. It is the flagship case of antitrust at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The Department of Justice's Antitrust Division loudly promises that the Microsoft case is the vanguard of many more Digital Economy cases to follow. The consequences for information technology companies and all the companies that rely on them would be dire indeed.

If the Microsoft case is the best the Antitrust Division has to offer America, then there is no reason to keep the Sherman Act. The Sherman Act today is what it always has been: a tool for failed competitors to win in the political arena what they cannot achieve by satisfying customers in the free market. The fast pace of the digital era makes relying on government bureaucracies even less defensible today than it was in the past. It is long past time to repeal the pernicious Sherman Act.

Copyright  2015 David Kopel 柯大為