Jesse Berst: "IT's Like This..."

Jesse Berst reckons Microsoft's offer of a settlement is one of its most arrogant stunts yet... Any arguments?

It's the first round of a prize fight. One fighter gets slapped around good. He gets a bloody nose, gets knocked down a few times, gets his butt kicked. The bell rings and he staggers back to his corner. Then the bell rings for the second round, and he staggers up and says to his opponent: "Are you ready to give up yet?"

That's how Microsoft's latest round of settlement overtures strikes me.

Don't get me wrong. I think Microsoft should settle. I think Microsoft should have settled months ago. But the company is too arrogant to admit wrongdoing. Too pig-headed to say sorry. And possibly too deep into its 'we are innovators' posturing to backtrack. Much as I'd like to get this over with -- and avoid another embarrassing round of Microsoft courtroom blunders -- developments in the last 24 hours don't offer much hope:

Bill Gates confirms ongoing discussions with the Justice Department to settle the antitrust case. Says any settlement would have to preserve Microsoft's "ability to innovate Windows, the ability to maintain the integrity of Windows as a fully designed product."

State AGs receive a proposed settlement from Microsoft. One described it as "minimalist" and "nowhere near" acceptable. As you recall, 19 states joined with the federal government to bring the antitrust action.

Speculation mounts about how much Microsoft is willing to give up to get the antitrust case behind it. Microsoft recently contacted OEMs about possible changes in first-boot licensing terms.

I'm no lawyer, but those scraps don't sound like the makings of a settlement to me. What they sound like are part of Microsoft's ongoing strategy to win on appeal. Remember when Judge Jackson recessed the case, he encouraged the two sides to make an effort to settle? Having gotten into trouble with the judge so many times before, Microsoft wants to show it really did try hard, but couldn't make it happen. Those stubborn government attorneys.

But let us know what you think. Will Microsoft come up with settlement terms acceptable to the feds and state attorneys general -- or is this just a PR ploy? Mail us at the Mailroom.

I do think Microsoft will fare better when it gets to the appeals process, but it is not a foregone conclusion. Unlike Andy Grove of Intel, who showed how you deal with the government when you've got your shareholders best interests in mind, Bill has his pride in mind.


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