Commentary: Microsoft needs a change in attitude

The ducking and weaving continues, but Microsoft's legal options are running out, says Inter@ctive Week analyst Randy Barrett.

Microsoft is growing more desperate by the minute.

Tuesday's petition to the US Supreme Court to have Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's monopoly ruling thrown out because of bias is just the latest legal maneuver designed to extricate the company from a quagmire of its own making.

Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected Microsoft's petition to revisit its decision that the software maker had illegally "commingled" its Internet Explorer browser and operating system codes. It was a serious blow to Microsoft, which still faces the scrutiny of a new lower court judge on the finding that the company illegally tied its Internet Explorer browser to its OS.

In late July, Microsoft announced it would let original equipment manufacturers decide which icons and programs to place on the startup screens of computers running the new Windows XP OS. It was pitched as a conciliatory move. A week later, news leaked that the software maker in fact required that its own icons be present if AOL was included in the start screen. So much for a "clean" desktop.

The latest gambit to the Supreme Court should be viewed dimly by the highest court. Jackson broke judicial codes of conduct by blabbing to reporters during the trial, and he should be castigated. But the Court of Appeals ruled that, while Jackson's behavior was reprehensible, he had not shown bias in his devastating Findings of Fact.

The ducking and weaving continues, but Microsoft's legal options are running out. The Circuit Court ruled in June that Microsoft is a predatory monopoly that broke the law and, so far, the company is trying every avenue to avoid the inevitable: some kind of government--or court-ruled modification of its behavior in the marketplace.

Earlier this week, Interactive Week's sister publication eWeek interviewed Microsoft vice president Jim Allchin, who reiterated Microsoft's plan to include its instant messenger and media player into the upcoming XP OS.

The recalcitrant legal and business strategy may buy time and prove successful in shoving XP into the marketplace without injunction, but it does nothing to clean up the mess created by Microsoft's illegal behavior. That will require a true change in attitude and behavior in Redmond.

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