MS users agree with antitrust decision, but worry about impact

Many corporate users believe that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings that Microsoft has an operating systems monopoly is factually correct, but are still concerned about how the judgment could affect the company's product plans.

Many corporate users believe that US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings that Microsoft has an operating systems monopoly is factually correct, but they are still concerned about how the judgment could affect the company's product plans.

"What will concern me is how much the legal department is involved in product development. Products should be developed from a features and technical perspective, and you shouldn't have to worry about the legal aspects of those decisions," said Eric Kuzmack, lead analyst at Gannett Company and an InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board member, based in Silver Springs, Md.

"I think it was fairly inevitable ... but what worries me is that as this gets more and more in-depth, [Microsoft] will consciously now not integrate things that should be integrated or integrate things that should not be because of the trial," Kuzmack added.

However, users also felt that in the short term it is unlikely that the Nov. 5 ruling will have an impact on most corporations.

"I think the short-term impact is not going to be very much; I think the real impact is going to be long term. I think that a lot of users are going to be apprehensive about moving forward [with Windows 2000]," said Forrest Jerome, director of technology IS and services at Colgate-Palmolive, in Piscataway, N.J., and an InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board member.

Mitchell Kertzman, chief executive officer of Liberate, in San Carlos, Calif., said that corporate users should be careful in the future when entering into contracts with Microsoft. One user echoed that sentiment and added that Microsoft's hardware partners should help keep the software giant in line.

"It will be interesting to see if the buyers continue on the upgrade treadmill," said Brandon Fouts, a network administrator for the Washington State Hospital Association, in Seattle. "Will the OEMs continue to help with the upgrade mill? Will any OEM dare to help the customers keep costs down and only upgrade when they see the cost benefits?"

In the end, corporate IS managers are anxious for the argument between Microsoft and the Department of Justice to end and believe that the ball is in Microsoft's court.

"I'm hoping that in light of this ruling, the Department [of Justice] and Microsoft will get together and hammer out an agreement that will actually be followed this time," Gannett's Kuzmack said.

"I think that in order to get out from under this overhang of the Department [of Justice], Microsoft needs to change the way they do business," Kuzmack said.

Although no one who followed the trial was particularly surprised that Jackson came down against Microsoft, some noted that he sided with the Department of Justice on virtually all of its charges.

The findings are indeed decisive. "One can only characterize the findings of fact as a staggering defeat for Microsoft," said Mark Schechter, a partner at Howrey & Simon, a Washington-based law firm, and a former official in the Department of Justice's antitrust division.

One way or another, Friday's findings of fact could force Microsoft to open up many segments of its practices to the benefit of consumers, said James Love, director of Consumer Project on Technology, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group based in Washington.

"It's a great win for consumers, and it lays the foundation for remedies that people have dreamed of -- of more interoperability and of more lenient licensing practices for OEMs, for example," Love said.

In the Internet arena, however, the ruling may have positive effects on standards creation and may fuel competition, noted Harald Summa, managing director of the Cologne, Germany-based Electronic Commerce Forum, a German association of companies seeking to promote business via the Internet. "We hope that on the basis of these developments, Internet standards can be established," Summa said.

Additional reporting by Stephanie Sanborn and the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.

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