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.

Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

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 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

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.
Gaming

Among hundreds of choices, these are the best 25 SNES games of all time

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games.
Computing

IBM’s Q System One is the rock star quantum computing needs

Quantum computing is intriguing. It's also confusing, distant, and unfathomable, which means people often skip right by the topic. IBM's Q System One may not be a scientific breakthrough, but it finally gives everyone a reason to stop and…
Computing

Google is giving its G Suite web apps new touches of visual improvements

Your G Suite applications will soon have a different look. Several of the web apps are getting updated with subtle visual improvements inspired by Google's Material Design guidelines. 
Computing

Hackers are scoring with ransomware that attacks its previous victims

Computer viruses are always evolving. In a new one, dubbed "Ryuk," hackers are targeting PCs with ransomware that scours an infected network in order to pinpoint and attack and enterprises with big money.
Computing

An update to Microsoft To-Do will help you keep up with your resolutions

If you're looking to stay productive in 2019, you might want to check out the freshly updated Microsoft To-Do app, now with additional integration with the Windows 10 Start Menu and more.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Computing

Could the next Microsoft HoloLens be announced at MWC 2019?

After not having a presence at Mobile World Congress for three years, Microsoft is now sending out media invites for a press conference on February 24 during the annual event in Barcelona. Could a next-generation HoloLens be on the way?
Computing

Microsoft to separate Cortana from search with the next version of Windows 10

Changes are on the way for two key features in Windows 10. A separation of Windows 10 search and Cortana will allow Microsoft to more often innovate on each of the features independently.
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents with Adobe or a free option

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Computing

Nvidia’s next midrange card might be a GTX 1660 Ti, rumors suggest

Nvidia may be working on a non-RTX Turing graphics card called the 1660 Ti. Rumors suggest it will have around 20 percent fewer CUDA cores than the RTX 2060 and will lack ray tracing support.