Microsoft case reaction
November 9, 1999
by David Orenstein, Mark Hall and Kim S. Nash
(IDG) -- Reaction to Judge Jackson's findings that Microsoft is a monopoly drew kudos from at least one major computer vendor and state attorneys general involved in the case. But as evident throughout the trial, corporate users said the opinion would not affect their plans.
John King, CIO at Filene's Basement Corp. in Wellesley, Mass., said his company a few years ago decided to use Microsoft's software for its stores, corporate servers and desktops, and e-mail and office productivity software. "Microsoft is going to continue to develop its product line," he said. "I'm not going to make any major changes at this point."
King noted that Microsoft will be able to stave off any remedies for months or years with appeals, and even when the government has broken up companies, it's questionable how much good it's done. AT&T's breakup in 1983, for example, has ultimately yielded to a new environment in which companies like MCI WorldCom Inc. can gobble Sprint Corp., forming new behemoths. "They're starting to get back together," he said.
Boeing Co., called as a witness in the trial (see "Boeing in spotlight at Microsoft trial," link below), said before the judge's findings were released today that it was unconcerned with issues raised in the case.
"Their practices that have come into question were not a problem for us," said Robert Jorgenson, spokesman for the Boeing's, shared services group in Seattle. "We use Netscape software for web browsing and email use... If there was undue pressure, it didn't work."
Analyst David Folger at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., agreed that it was competitors, rather than users, who will laud the findings. "I don't see this as affecting Microsoft's business," said Folger. "Some end users care about Microsoft's dominance, but that concern is much stronger among vendors. Microsoft doesn't service that badly its end users. Microsoft is very nasty and aggressive regarding its competitors."
Count Caldera Inc. in that ballpark. A small software company in Provo, Utah, Caldera is suing Microsoft for alleged antitrust violations related to Microsoft's actions in the DOS operating system market in the early 1990s.
"We think it's good. We think it's accurate. The judge made the right [finding] in saying they've got monopoly power," CEO Bryan Sparks said. "I don't think it could have gone much better." Caldera may be able to incorporate some of the findings in its own arguments when its trial starts Jan. 17.
State attorneys general beamed about the judge's ruling.
"The opinion really is a clean sweep for the perspective we presented at trial," said Elliot Spitzer, attorney general for New York. Iowa attorney general Tom Miller called the judge's ruling "strong, comprehensive and consistent."
But Miller also acknowledged that Microsoft had already done the main harm alleged before today's ruling. "Microsoft has gotten pretty much where they wanted to in the browser war. That is pretty much over." But he also said that the lawsuit reined in Microsoft, keeping it from doing further damage to consumers.
The attorneys general downplayed the likelihood that Microsoft would try to stave off those remedies with a long campaign of appeals. They said the appellate process is usually swifter than the trial. They also heaped praise on Jackson for running the trial so quickly, in comparison to the marathon IBM antitrust suit that lasted for a decade.
Sun Microsystems Inc. said the judge's findings were supported by a "wealth of evidence." Moving forward, Sun said, Microsoft should be prohibited from "buying the distribution channels of the future (e.g. cable and wireless) and from buying rather than inventing technologies." It also said the government should make sure that the technical interfaces of Microsoft's monopoly software are open.
"Sun believes it is important that steps be taken to ensure that one company is not allowed to stifle true competition in an increasingly networked and dynamic industry," the company said. "It appears that the factual record, as determined by the court, will amply support such remedial approaches."
On the financial side, one analyst said, "Most people think there will be more wealth if they break [Microsoft] apart than if they leave it alone." Continued Jedd Dunas, managing director, at Bear Stearns & Co. in San Francisco: "The fact that its stock is only down three [dollars] in after market trading suggests that only a few people are panicked."
CNNfn: Special Report: Justice vs Microsoft
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