Microsoft court filing touts Google's 'rapid success'

In asking a judge not to extend antitrust oversight, Redmond points to the new competition over the past few years--and extols chief rival's virtues in the process.

Google "is perhaps the most notable example of how open and competitive the software industry has become," with "prospects...so bright that the capital markets value the company at approximately $231.5 billion, making it the fifth most valuable company in America." Or so says a document that landed in my in-box last night.

No, it's not a Google press release. It's a snippet from a federal court filing made late Tuesday by perhaps its chief rival today: Microsoft.

Google's formidable presence forms the basis for one of Microsoft's major arguments against extending a soon-to-expire period of antitrust oversight by federal and state prosecutors: that the software industry has changed a great deal over the past five years. Competition has emerged not only from the reigning search king but also from "the rapid development" of the open-source software movement and success by Yahoo, MySpace.com, Apple's iTunes and Salesforce.com, Redmond argues.

Between the introduction to and the body of its arguments, Microsoft's lawyers devoted nearly two pages to its rival's virtues. They extolled Google's "extraordinary" and "rapid" success with a multitude of products--including "by far the most lucrative service supporting Internet advertising." And they couldn't resist delving into literary devices.

"Google's dynamic ascent looks more like the Space Shuttle blasting off from Cape Canaveral than a plodding Clydesdale," they wrote in the 32-page filing with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington.

For the past five years, Microsoft has been bound by an antitrust settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general. Most of that deal is now set to expire no later than the end of January, and the Justice Department says it doesn't support extending that oversight further . But a number of states have now raised last-minute objections to halting it so soon , arguing Microsoft needs a lengthier period of policing because it's not clear the requirements have been working as designed.

Besides the depiction of what Microsoft perceives as competitive software landscape, its latest filing raises a number of legal objections to the request for lengthier oversight. For one thing, the company argues the states seeking an extension place too much emphasis on whether the settlement has reduced Windows' market share, which Microsoft says was not a goal of the deal in the first place.

Microsoft also points to the fact that back when the settlement was being negotiated, the California group sought a decadelong, rather than five-year, oversight period--and lost both at the district and appeals court levels. The parties agreed that the oversight could be extended for up to two years if Microsoft were found to have "engaged in a pattern of willful and systematic violations," and Microsoft argues in its filing that the states have failed to establish that or any valid purpose for doubling the oversight period.

The Justice Department is scheduled to file a reply to the filing by Friday, and the states' responses are currently due by November 16.

 

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