Justice Dept Probing IBM’s Computer Market Conduct

IBMThe Justice Department is looking into allegations that IBM Corp. has abused its dominant position in the market for mainframe computers, the data-crunching heavy lifters of the computing world that IBM introduced in the 1960s and which are now used to process some of the most sensitive data in banking, government and health care.

The accusations stem from claims by IBM rivals that they’ve been illegally frozen out of the mainframe market because of IBM’s refusal to allow its mainframe operating software to run on non-IBM computers. IBM doesn’t have many rivals anymore that make mainframe computers, but some smaller companies are trying to develop technologies that would allow the software to run on cheaper hardware.

They allege that IBM, which used to license its mainframe software to competitors and for the back half of the last century operated under an antitrust agreement with the government, stopped doing so in recent years to choke off competition.

Known for their reliability, mainframes can cost $1 million or more each and are behind many everyday transactions. Withdrawing cash from an ATM, for example, often involves the ATM pinging a mainframe at the bank where the customer’s data is stored to make sure there’s enough money in the account.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association, an industry organization that complained to the Justice Department last month about IBM’s behavior, said Wednesday the government has started examining its allegations by sending out formal requests for information about the mainframe market to IBM rivals.

“IBM will tell big customers that if you buy that other stuff, we’re not going to let that stuff talk to our stuff,” said Ed Black, CEO of the trade group. “We think of the Internet as open and innovative, but that’s a lock ’em up and keep ’em locked up strategy. That’s very unsatisfactory for the customer base.”

One of the companies that received a request from the Justice Department was Tampa, Fla.-based T3 Technologies Inc., which in January lodged a formal complaint against IBM with European antitrust regulators and is suing IBM in the U.S. alleging antitrust abuses.

The company, a reseller of IBM mainframes from 1992 to 2002, says IBM has tried to thwart its expansion into making mainframes by denying it licenses for IBM’s mainframe software, something done “for no reason other than to remove all competition from the mainframe market.”

T3’s president, Steven Friedman, didn’t respond to messages from The Associated Press late Wednesday. The Justice Department would not comment on a potential antitrust investigation.

In a statement, IBM pointed to a decision last week by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissing T3’s complaint against IBM.

“We understand the Department of Justice has asked T3 for documents from the litigation,” IBM said. “We continue to believe there is no merit to T3’s claims, and that IBM is fully entitled to enforce our intellectual property rights and protect the investments that we have made in our technologies.”

Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM said it will cooperate with any inquiries from the Justice Department.

That case stems from a conflict between IBM and Platform Solutions Inc., whose technology was used to run IBM’s mainframe operating software on non-IBM computers. Platform had also complained to European regulators about IBM’s conduct, until IBM bought Platform last year and the companies dropped their lawsuits against each other.

T3 had joined the case on Platform’s side.

IBM’s clashes with antitrust authorities go far back.

For nearly 50 years the company operated under an agreement with the government that sought to limit IBM’s power in certain markets. The agreement, a so-called antitrust consent decree, was struck in 1956 to settle allegations of monopoly abuse in the market for electronic tabulating machines. It also covered computers, and parts of it gradually phased out until all provisions were dropped in 2001.

The company’s last clash with antitrust authorities was a 13-year fight that stretched from 1969, when the government filed a separate antitrust lawsuit against the company, until 1982, when the government dropped the case.

Computing

Microsoft drops Surface Go price to $350 for Black Friday week

The Microsoft Surface Go convertible tablet has seen a large price drop this Black Friday sales season, lowering the base model to $350 and even the upgraded ones have seen $50 knocked off of their asking price.
Mobile

T-Mobile-Sprint merger could close as early as first quarter of 2019, exec says

T-Mobile and Sprint are finally merging. After a few failed attempts, the two companies announced their merger at the start of 2018. Once it's complete, the new T-Mobile could be better positioned to take on the likes of Verizon and AT&T.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Computing

These are the 5 best free antivirus apps to protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as picking from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.
Deals

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Computing

Razer takes up to $500 off of its Blade gaming laptops for Black Friday

If you're a fan of Razer's understated aesthetics that earned the Blade comparisons with Apple's laptops, you can score some big savings on Black Friday, as Razer is offering up to $500 discounts off of its gaming notebooks.
Computing

Detangle your desk with a mighty wireless mouse. Here are our six favorites

If you're looking for the best wireless mouse on the market, we've got the list for you!. These six models have something for everyone, whether you're a hardcore gamer or simply looking to ward off carpal tunnel.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Buying Guides

Solid-state drives are speedier than hard disk drives. Are they worth it?

As the price of solid-state drives comes down, it's reached a point where it's hard to recommend a system without at least a hybrid solution. In the battle of SSD vs. HDD, a clear winner has emerged.
Computing

Service restored after glitch locks out Microsoft Office 365 business users

Microsoft reported that a problem with its system caused some users to be locked out of their accounts. Because the multifactor authentication system went down globally, some Office 365 and Azure users were unable to log in.
Computing

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.
Deals

The best Walmart Black Friday deals in 2018

Walmart has historically been the undisputed king of Black Friday deals. The mega-store is known for offering deals on products in almost every category, from smart TVs to children’s toys. We're combing through every deal as it is…
Computing

Want to game on your Chromebook? Here's where to start

Chromebooks aren't great for gaming, but there are a few titles that most machines can run. There's a surprisingly diverse crowd that includes role-playing games, action side-scrollers, and puzzlers.