Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Future of the Web 05/14/2009

  • Tags: Microsoft, cloud computing, azure, marketing, government

    • The Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) is an initiative led by Microsoft Public Sector Developer Evangelism teamExternal Link. OGDI uses the Azure Services PlatformExternal Link to make it easier to publish and use a wide variety of public data from government agencies. OGDI is also a free, open source ‘starter kit’ (coming soon) with code that can be used to publish data on the Internet in a Web-friendly format with easy-to-use, open API's. OGDI-based web API’s can be accessed from a variety of client technologies such as Silverlight, Flash, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, mapping web sites, etc.

      Whether you are a business wishing to use government data, a government developer, or a ‘citizen developer’, these open API's will enable you to build innovative applications, visualizations and mash-ups that empower people through access to government information. This site is built using the OGDI starter kit software assets and provides interactive access to some publicly-available data sets along with sample code and resources for writing applications using the OGDI API's.

  • Tags: Microsoft, Amazon, cloud computing, marketing

    • Microsoft has set up a repository in which government agencies may upload and store their public-facing datasets so that they can be reused by other parties.

      Agency developers can upload their data to this repository, called the Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI), through Microsoft's Azure, the company's cloud-computing offering.

    • Since taking the role of federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra has urged agencies to make more of their data open to the public in easy-to-use formats. To this end, the General Services Administration, on behalf of Kundra, is setting up a repository of government feeds, to be called Data.gov. Data.gov will both serve as a repository for data and as an index for government data located elsewhere, Kundra told GCN.

      OGDI came about as a way to introduce Azure to the federal information technology community, said Susie Adams, Microsoft Federal chief technology officer. "The government wants to store all this data, what with Kundra talking about Data.gov. We asked if you were to use Azure as data source, [what would you need to do]?"

    • In addition to Microsoft's effort, at least one other company has volunteered to rehost government data for wider use. Amazon is offering to store public-domain datasets for users of its Elastic Compute Cloud service.
  • Tags: antitrust, IBM, Google, DoJ

    • The Obama administration put large companies on notice that it would be tougher on mergers and attempts to stifle competition, restoring the type of aggressive antitrust enforcement of the 1990s that led to the landmark government case against Microsoft Corp.
    • Among those likely to feel the heat of federal inquiries are technology companies, such as chip maker Intel Corp., Internet giant Google Inc. and longtime tech leader IBM Corp.
  • Tags: Intel, antitrust, DG Competition, DoJ

    • European regulators today levied a record antitrust fine of $1.45 billion against Intel. Corp. for abusing its position as the world's dominant computer chip maker.

      The fine comes after nearly two years of investigation by the European Commission into allegations that the Santa Clara company offered improper rebates and other discounts to discourage companies from buying microprocessors from its smaller rival, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Complaints from AMD triggered the case.
    • The fine tops the $1.23-billion fine European regulators levied against Microsoft Corp. last year for abusing its dominant position in computer software.
    • "Intel takes strong exception to this decision. We believe the decision is wrong and ignores the reality of a highly competitive microprocessor marketplace – characterized by constant innovation, improved product performance and lower prices. There has been absolutely zero harm to consumers. Intel will appeal."
    • The European ruling, which had been expected in recent days, comes as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission continues its own antitrust investigation against Intel, which was opened in June 2008. AMD also has sued Intel in federal court.
    • "The relief that the Europeans imposed I think will provide an excellent guide to U.S. enforcers as they try to determine what to do about Intel's exclusionary conduct," Balto said today.
  • Tags: Intel, antitrust, dg competition

      • The Commission has found that Intel excluded its competitor in two ways:

        1. through illegal loyalty rebates
        2. by paying manufacturers and retailers to restrict the commercialisation of competitors' products.

        These illegal actions were designed to preserve Intel's market share at a time when their only significant rival - AMD - was a growing threat to Intel's position. This threat was widely recognised by both computer manufacturers and in Intel's own internal documents seen by the Commission.

        The computer manufacturers involved are Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and NEC. The retailer involved is Media Saturn Holdings, the parent company of Media Markt.

    • Naturally, the Commission favours strong, vigorous price competition, including by dominant firms. However, Intel went beyond normal price competition by giving rebates to computer manufacturers on the condition that they bought all, or almost all, of their CPUs from Intel.

      Intel also made direct payments to a major retailer – Media Markt - on the condition that it stocked only computers with Intel CPUs.

    • Just to give you one example: in one case, a computer manufacturer took up only a small part of an offer by AMD of free CPUs because acceptance of all the free CPUs offered would have led that computer manufacturer to breach the conditions of its agreement with Intel and to lose rebates on all its much more numerous Intel purchases.
    • Intel made direct payments to computer manufacturers to halt or delay the launch of products using their rival's chips, and to limit their distribution once available.

      The Commission has specific, documented examples, of Intel paying other manufacturers to, for example, delay the launch of an AMD-based PC by six months, and to restrict the sales of AMD-based products to certain customers.

    • The Commission Decision contains evidence that Intel went to great lengths to cover-up many of its anti-competitive actions. Many of the conditions mentioned above were not to be found in Intel’s official contracts.

      However, the Commission was able to gather a broad range of evidence demonstrating Intel's illegal conduct through statements from companies, on-site inspections, and formal requests for information.

    • Finally, I would like to draw your attention to Intel's latest global advertising campaign which proposes Intel as the "Sponsors of Tomorrow."

      Their website invites visitors to add their 'vision of tomorrow'. Well, I can give my vision of tomorrow for Intel here and now: "obey the law".

  • This is an uncharacteristically strong press release from DG Competition. I still must read the order, but the description of the evidence is incredible, particularly the finding of concealment of its rebate conditions by Intel.

    Tags: Intel, antitrust, DG Competion

    • The Commission found that Intel engaged in two specific forms of illegal practice. First, Intel gave wholly or partially hidden rebates to computer manufacturers on condition that they bought all, or almost all, their x86 CPUs from Intel. Intel also made direct payments to a major retailer on condition it stock only computers with Intel x86 CPUs. Such rebates and payments effectively prevented customers - and ultimately consumers - from choosing alternative products. Second, Intel made direct payments to computer manufacturers to halt or delay the launch of specific products containing competitors’ x86 CPUs and to limit the sales channels available to these products.
      • Intel awarded major computer manufacturers rebates on condition that they purchased all or almost all of their supplies, at least in certain defined segments, from Intel:

        • Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer A from December 2002 to December 2005 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing exclusively Intel CPUs
        • Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer B from November 2002 to May 2005 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing no less than 95% of its CPU needs for its business desktop computers from Intel (the remaining 5% that computer manufacturer B could purchase from rival chip maker AMD was then subject to further restrictive conditions set out below)
        • Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer C from October 2002 to November 2005 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing no less than 80% of its CPU needs for its desktop and notebook computers from Intel
        • Intel gave rebates to computer manufacturer D in 2007 conditional on this manufacturer purchasing its CPU needs for its notebook computers exclusively from Intel.
    • Intel structured its pricing policy to ensure that a computer manufacturer which opted to buy AMD CPUs for that part of its needs that was open to competition would consequently lose the rebate (or a large part of it) that Intel provided for the much greater part of its needs for which the computer manufacturer had no choice but to buy from Intel. The computer manufacturer would therefore have to pay Intel a higher price for each of the units supplied for which the computer manufacturer had no alternative but to buy from Intel. In other words, should a computer manufacturer fail to purchase virtually all its x86 CPU requirements from Intel, it would forego the possibility of obtaining a significant rebate on any of its very high volumes of Intel purchases.

      Moreover, in order to be able to compete with the Intel rebates, for the part of the computer manufacturers' supplies that was up for grabs, a competitor that was just as efficient as Intel would have had to offer a price for its CPUs lower than its costs of producing those CPUs, even if the average price of its CPUs was lower than that of Intel.

    • In its decision, the Commission does not object to rebates in themselves but to the conditions Intel attached to those rebates.
    • Furthermore, Intel made payments to major retailer Media Saturn Holding from October 2002 to December 2007 on condition that it exclusively sold Intel-based PCs in all countries in which Media Saturn Holding is active.
    • For example, rival chip manufacturer AMD offered one million free CPUs to one particular computer manufacturer. If the computer manufacturer had accepted all of these, it would have lost Intel's rebate on its many millions of remaining CPU purchases, and would have been worse off overall simply for having accepted this highly competitive offer. In the end, the computer manufacturer took only 160,000 CPUs for free.
      • Intel also interfered directly in the relations between computer manufacturers and AMD. Intel awarded computer manufacturers payments - unrelated to any particular purchases from Intel - on condition that these computer manufacturers postponed or cancelled the launch of specific AMD-based products and/or put restrictions on the distribution of specific AMD-based products. The Commission found that these payments had the potential effect of preventing products for which there was a consumer demand from coming to the market. The Commission found the following specific cases:

        • For the 5% of computer manufacturer B’s business that was not subject to the conditional rebate outlined above, Intel made further payments to computer manufacturer B provided that this manufacturer :
        • sold AMD-based business desktops only to small and medium enterprises
        • sold AMD-based business desktops only via direct distribution channels (as opposed to through distributors) and
        • postponed the launch of its first AMD-based business desktop in Europe by 6 months.
        • Intel made payments to computer manufacturer E provided that this manufacturer postponed the launch of an AMD-based notebook from September 2003 to January 2004.
        • Before the conditional rebate to computer manufacturer D outlined above, Intel made payments to this manufacturer provided that it postponed the launch of AMD-based notebooks from September 2006 to the end of 2006.
    • The Commission obtained proof of the existence of many of the conditions found to be illegal in the antitrust decision even though they were not made explicit in Intel’s contracts. Such proof is based on a broad range of contemporaneous evidence such as e-mails obtained inter alia from unannounced on-site inspections, in responses to formal requests for information and in a number of formal statements made to the Commission by the other companies concerned. In addition, there is evidence that Intel had sought to conceal the conditions associated with its payments.
  • When available, the decision should appear at http://ec.europa.eu/competition/antitrust/cases/index/by_nr_75.html#i37_990

    Tags: intel, antitrust, DG Competition

    • Did the Commission co-operate with the United States on this case?

      The Commission and the United States Federal Trade Commission have kept each other regularly and closely informed on the state of play of their respective Intel investigations. These discussions have been held in a co-operative and friendly atmosphere, and have been substantively fruitful in terms of sharing experiences on issues of common interest.

    • Where does the money go?

      Once final judgment has been delivered in any appeals before the Court of First Instance (CFI) and the Court of Justice, the money goes into the EU’s central budget, thus reducing the contributions that Member States pay to the EU.

      Does Intel have to pay the fine if it appeals to the European Court of First Instance (CFI)?

      Yes. In case of appeals to the CFI, it is normal practice that the fine is paid into a blocked bank account pending the final outcome of the appeals process. Any fine that is provisionally paid will produce interest based on the interest rate applied by the European Central Bank to its main refinancing operations. In exceptional circumstances, companies may be allowed to cover the amount of the fine by a bank guarantee at a higher interest rate.

      What percentage of Intel's turnover does the fine represent?

      The fine represents 4.15 % of Intel's turnover in 2008. This is less than half the allowable maximum, which is 10% of a company's annual turnover.

    • How long is the Decision?

      The Decision is 542 pages long.

      When is the Decision going to be published?

      The Decision in English (the official language version of the Decision) will be made available as soon as possible on DG Competition’s website (once relevant business secrets have been taken out). French and German translations will also be made available on DG Competition’s website in due course. A summary of the Decision will be published in the EU's Official Journal L series in all languages (once the translations are available).

  • Tags: Intel, antitrust, DG Competition

    • "Intel takes strong exception to this decision. We believe the decision is wrong and ignores the reality of a highly competitive microprocessor marketplace – characterized by constant innovation, improved product performance and lower prices. There has been absolutely zero harm to consumers. Intel will appeal."

      "We do not believe our practices violated European law. The natural result of a competitive market with only two major suppliers is that when one company wins sales, the other does not. The Directorate General for Competition of the Commission ignored or refused to obtain significant evidence that contradicts the assertions in this decision. We believe this evidence shows that when companies perform well the market rewards them, when they don't perform the market acts accordingly."

    • "Despite our strongly held views, as we go through the appeals process we plan to work with the Commission to ensure we're in compliance with their decision.
  • Tags: intel, antitrust, DG Competition

    • Most likely, we grant you, it was coincidence. But we couldn’t help notice the timing: Two days after the DOJ’s new antitrust head, Christine Varney, publicly repudiates her predecessors by pledging to ramp up enforcement on so-called “single-firm” monopolistic behavior, the European Union takes a sledgehammer to Intel Corp., fining it $1.45 billion for alleged monopolistic activity. The fine is the largest ever assessed for monopoly abuse. Click here for the WSJ story, from Charles Forelle; here for the NYT story; here for the NYT story; here for the FT story; here for the Commission’s statement; here for Intel’s response.
      • See my earlier Diigo bookmark quoting the DG Competition statement that it had coordinated with the U.S. Justice Dept. in its simultaneous and ongoing investigation of INtel. - By Paul Merrell
    • John Pheasant, an antitrust practitioner at Hogan & Hartson in London and Brussels, told the Law Blog that some of the evidence does “not look very good for Intel,” adding that “if the facts are there, this type of conduct is more likely to be regarded as abusive if practiced by a dominant company. . . .”
    • On Varney’s statement from earlier this week, Kroes said the Justice Department’s stance gave her a “huge positive feeling. The more competition authorities joining us in our competition philosophy, the better it is.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of Future of the Web group favorite links are here.

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