Microsoft settlement too little, too late

The whole thing could have been cleared up five years ago...
Written by Suzanna Kerridge, Contributor on

The whole thing could have been cleared up five years ago...

Analysts have welcomed the US courts' decision over Microsoft's battle with the Department of Justice (DoJ), but say it is too little, too late. Experts claim that given the complexity of the US legal system and the speed at which technology evolves, any punishment for past infringements is likely to be irrelevant. Clive Longbottom, analyst at Quocirca, said Microsoft could have answered the DoJ's concerns within a few hours five years ago. Instead he said the DoJ has been forced into a corner and is now back tracking. Mike Thomson, analyst at the Butler Group, said: "The DoJ has certainly backtracked a lot. It makes you wonder if Judge Jackson hadn't made those contentious comments last year whether the ruling to split the company would have been upheld." President Bush's election last November also sparked speculation that the software giant would be let off the hook. Leaked reports suggested that the President was sympathetic towards Bill Gates' plight. Clive Longbottom said: "It sounds like Bush has been fiddling around in the background. The DoJ has caved in completely as Microsoft gets more out of this settlement than the government." The events of 11 September are certain to have played a part in motivating the two parties to renew talks. Gary Barnett, principal analyst at Ovum, said: "The US domestic situation must have been a partial contributor. It is in the interest of the DoJ and Microsoft to reach a settlement as there are more pressing issues." However, he added that the irony is not lost on the IT community that after three years of legal wrangling over the bundling in Windows 98, Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows XP, is based on the same principles. US District Attorney Charles A James faces the onerous task of persuading all 18 states to agree to the terms. Ovum's Barnett said: "I am certain that a number of the state attorneys complained vociferously but I am relatively confident that a settlement will be reached. Everyone is fairly motivated to bring this thing to a close." Lessons must be learnt though, he warned. "Microsoft must have the right to sell and bundle products to the marketplace at a price that suits it. But I hope the settlement removes some of the sharp practices and restrictions placed on third party vendors," said Barnett. However, Thomson claimed the over-arching lesson learnt from the case was more threatening.
"This case shows that if you are a big enough organisation then you can have as much muscle as a Federal government." Precise details of the settlement are yet to be made public, but we'll have more on this story later today...
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