In the wake of Microsoft and NBC’s partnership to provide free streaming multi-media content via Silverlight for the Beijing Olympics, anti-trust criticisms have mounted against Microsoft, reminiscent of legal actions brought during the 1990s. The International Herald Tribune, also known as the global edition of the New York Times, highlighted concerns in an August 11 article. The issue is whether Silverlight standards should compete with other proprietary systems, or should complement them. Brian Goldfarb, a Microsoft executive, has stated that only Microsoft will produce the development software of Silverlight’s content. He has also implied that PlayReady, the digital-rights management technology of Silverlight, will only be accessible on Microsoft servers. Critics argue that these decisions are an abuse of monopoly power, stifling competition and
The Silverlight technology is expected to compete with Adobe’s Flash player, which presently controls 99 percent of the streaming content and video industry. In perhaps an ominous precursor to Goldfarb’s remarks, last year Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen questioned Microsoft’s commitment to offering a Silverlight service that is equally compatible with other operating systems.
"They're still playing the same games," said Michael Nelson, professor of Internet studies at Georgetown University. "It's a way to lock up the content, and it's not enabling as much innovation as we would like to see."
In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the findings of fact in United States v. Microsoft, 87 F. Supp. 2d 30 (D.D.C. 2000), in which the Department of Justice successfully charged Microsoft for anti-trust violations involving the bundling of their Internet Explorer web browser with their Windows operating systems. The reasoning was that slow modems dissuaded consumers from downloading rival browsers like Netscape Navigator and Opera, leaving store-purchase the only other available option. The Court ruled that such restrictions on the Internet web browser market were an exercise of anti-competitive power, and imposed anti-trust penalties against Microsoft.
Just last year, seven states and the District of Columbia filed complaints requesting that the court extend the anti-trust restrictions to Silverlight technology. The plaintiffs argued that favoring Silverlight for Windows operating systems would substantially disadvantage Adobe’s Flash product.