I know I’m a dork because…

… I spent most of my meals this weekend reading a ~100 page set of documents on EU competition law (aka antitrust law, for americans.) For an optional seminar.

Perhaps worse, I could hardly read any of it without thinking ‘microsoft probably violates this one, and this one, and….’ I’m pretty sure their behavior with regards to IE/Netscape violates current EU competition law; I’m going to have to read and think about it, because I’ve come around to the position that it is better for competitors if OS vendors can incorporate technology like that into their OS. (People tend to forget that MS put out of business several vendors of graphical shells when they went from DOS to Windows 3.1, but no one would really argue that we shouldn’t bundle graphical shells with an OS anymore.) My current beef with them really centers around the network effects engendered by their extensions to HTML, or to other data ‘standards’ like .doc.

Tangentially, the seminar will be taught by Giuliano Amato. Any italian readers care to share anything about him that is non-standard for italian politicians and isn’t in Wikipedia? :)

8 thoughts on “I know I’m a dork because…”

  1. Hello Luis. Amato is a professor by background, not a lifetime career politician, although I would say that he spent about ten years between the 80s and 90s into the thick of Italian politics. He was often used as a neutral leader for so-called ‘technical governments’, which were formed during the corruption scandals and in times when the hyper-fragmented Italian political scene could not generate a real governing majority.

    Politically, Amato used to be in the ‘Socialist pary’, which is more or less correspondant to the liberal side of the democrats in the US, a fairly central position in Europe – You have to remember that at this time the main left-wing party in Italy was the Communist party, commanding about 35-40% of the vote, with the Socialists controlling about 10-12%. He was prime minister on several occasions for short periods leading technical govermnets, and despite his party taking the worst of the 90s corruption scandals, he was untouched and is presumed to be clean of having received bribes, not something many former members of that party can make a claim to.

    I do not remember what is his law specialty, but he is a law professor by trade. I believe he had a part in the establishment of the Italian antitrust authority.

    Anything you want to know in particular ?

    Best -F

  2. More than enough, especially the context about where his party sat in the Italian political spectrum- I was most curious about that. He has done competition law at both the Italian and EU levels, so that should be very interesting.

  3. As you can see from Wikipedia, he has been in most of the relevant offices of govermnmnt in Italy Currently he is minister of the interior, and has just ben elected to a seat in the House of Deputies, while he used to sit in the Senate (this is somewhat unusual, but not as big as a step down as it would be in the US: senators and deputies are effectively equal in Italy, the only significant different being a minor prestige difference and the fact that there are less senators than deputies, but the terms are the same in length, an both houses are (or at least used to be when I studied this) exactly identical in power. Senators have to be 50 to be elected however, while Deputies just need to be 25, so they stay true to their name of elders ;-)

    His specialty is compared constitutional law, which was also my late father’s – so now I understand why I heard so much about him ;-)

  4. err – I sinned of literal translation. Comparative Constitutional Law is probably a better way to put it ;-)

  5. Indeed. (Senate is from the same latin root as senile (senex, old man), for those not sure about the ‘name of the elders’ thing :)

  6. Amato was very close to be elected President of the Italian Republic in 2006 as well, but in the end the centre-left majority decided that the place should go to a former Communist (the Democrats of the Left, the largest successor party to the Communist party, are the largest party in the centre-left coalition). As Federico wrote, Amato was a Socialist, and in the ’80s, when the Socialist Party was led by Bettino Craxi, there was a strong confrontation between his party and the Communists (see Enrico Berlinguer). So the new President was Giorgio Napolitano, and Amato became Minister of the Interior, which is one of the most important offices.

  7. Bundling shouldn’t really be a problem in a healthy market. It’s just that currently if Microsoft bundles something, the market is gone.

    No amount of restrictions and strings to Microsoft is going to change that. (Well perhaps requiring them to LGPL with patent licences everything they have that has a network effect, but that is just not going to happen).

    If there would be ten vendors selling equilavent windows, and one them started bundling, say, security tools, the would still have the market of 9 others. And if the rest decide to include security tools as well, the ST vendors still have chances of becoming the ST vendor for some of the windows vendors.

    It also seems unlikely that EU can enforce a split on Microsoft. Therefor I think the only realistic solution is to:

    1) set a running sanction on Microsoft for all products where their marketshare >= 50%
    2) use this money to fund projects that improve the competitors products
    3) profit! (oops)

    The main problem would be defining marketshare.

  8. if the government can’t force microsoft not to bundle some product, can it force microsoft to at least bundle all competing products? for example suppose microsoft wants to “own” the market of audio and video codecs, can they at least be forced to also distribute by default ogg vorbis and theora and/or some other codec?

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