Microsoft's New Zealand corporate customers appear indifferent to or unwilling to comment on the latest -- and possibly final -- US court ruling in the company's four-year antitrust trial.
The district court ruling late last month rejected most of the demands of a group of nine US states that had sought harsher penalties than negotiated between the company, the US Department of Justice and nine other states. The hold-out states wanted Microsoft to be made to unbundle Windows.
Of 16 IT executives contacted by Computerworld, only four replied, to say they had no opinion.
ACT party chief of staff Christopher Milne’s no comment reaction was typical.
Microsoft .Net User Group head Lukas Svoboda was initially unaware of the ruling. Once acquainted with it, he said, “It’s all pretty much semantics to me. I'm not really fussed. As long as Microsoft keeps bringing out good toolsets and good application environments while keeping prices reasonable then it's all good in my opinion. And they are doing a very good job of this at the moment.”
IDC New Zealand analyst Mike Cranna isn’t surprised at the ruling.
“It does seem like Microsoft has just been given a tap on the wrist, and that this is not going to change any previous behaviour.”
He says users will still have Microsoft products as their dominant operating system, which has "advantages" when it comes to going with Microsoft applications. “Therefore there is still not much choice.
“Partners will still be quite wary as Microsoft has demonstrated that it is unsympathetic to those who have a different agenda. However, not partnering with Microsoft is sometimes more difficult, given its intense competitiveness.”
Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington put on a contrite face, releasing a statement describing the decision as “tough but fair”.
New Zealand communications manager Carol Leishman says the case wasn’t brought by customers but by competitors and the settlement puts renewed responsibility on to the company, which it accepts.
“We’ve grown a lot in the last four years and learned about how we need to be better partners with our industry and how we need to have a more constructive relationship with the [US] government.
“With New Zealand customers, you’ll see us working really hard to strengthen how we connect with them. We’re going to be listening more, communicating better and at the same time focusing on innovation.”
Leishman says Microsoft has already made many of the changes required by the settlement.
“We have increased the technical information we make available about our products. We’ve made it simpler for computer makers to remove Microsoft software icons from the desktop and we have made our OEM licences more uniform. We have also appointed a compliance officer to oversee compliance with the settlement.”
Linux advocate and systems integrator David Lane of Christchurch-based Egressive Systems said the ruling was always going to be an anticlimax.
“I believe Microsoft has sealed its own fate with its licensing policies, and its heavy-handed business style.
“In the end it’s up to the market, and anyone who has watched the media over the past few years can see it: the market is and will continue to vote with its feet.”