Re:Viewing 2001: Microsoft's most important year?

"The deal thrashed out does little to limit Microsoft's behaviour. For many it is a sell-out..."
Written by Suzanna Kerridge, Contributor

"The deal thrashed out does little to limit Microsoft's behaviour. For many it is a sell-out..."

XP, .NET, Passport and more legal battles than we can remember - it's even been a busy year by Microsoft's standards. Our chief Microsoft watcher, Suzi Kerridge, looks back at the company's 2001 and thanks the gods that her days of following the DoJ case are over. Let's start with the technology and move on to the legal shenanigans and spats. The former won't take very long to explain and often leads to the latter. Windows XP, .NET and Passport. Look no further. These have been the main characters in Microsoft's broad technology portfolio this year - resulting in numerous arguments and disputes, but more of those later. The year started with a bang - a $20m compensation bill for Microsoft to pay (http://www.silicon.com/a32231). The lucky recipient of the cash was Sun Microsystems which gratefully pocketed the money after nearly three years of legal wrangling with the software giant over Java. (See, technology leading to lawsuits and we're not even out of January yet.) Microsoft was found guilty of breach of contract and trademark infringement and ordered not to use any updated Java within its products. But Microsoft being the giant it is merely shrugged its shoulders and eight months later dropped Java in favour of XML (http://www.silicon.com/a45846 and http://www.silicon.com/a49779 ). In technology terms, 2001 has been a landmark year for the Seattle firm. This was the year that Windows XP made it off the campus and away from developers and onto the shelves at PC World and PCs at so many OEMs and resellers (http://www.silicon.com/a48550 ). Meanwhile, .NET - the catch-all for Microsoft's web services strategy - kicked into life with Passport becoming the ubiquitous sign-in for (eventually) a number of sites and services. None of these achievements passed without controversy. Passport has been dogged with security concerns. One user found he could view licence details of other customers via the e-open licensing programme http://www.silicon.com/a48874 ). Licensing changes introduced to change the way users pay for products such as Windows XP caused a huge outcry. UK Plc could end up paying an extra £1bn in licence costs (http://www.silicon.com/a47628), estimated the Infrastructure Forum, as users are forced into a three-year subscription model that does away with old style discounts. Microsoft thought again and we're yet to know how much things will change. .NET also prompted further accusations of monopolistic behaviour. Some say Microsoft will merely be extending its reach across the internet. Rewind. Monopolistic behaviour? Enter stage right Judge Penfield Jackson, the man in charge of the antitrust case against Microsoft and the person accused of skewing the case by holding late night tête-à-tête's with members of the press. Indeed, 2001 was the year that Microsoft finally laid to rest its case with the US Department of Justice. Regardless of which team you were backing, it is widely recognised the DoJ - urged on by the pro-Microsoft Bush administration - backed down (http://www.silicon.com/a48783 ). The remedies accepted in the settlement were little more than a slap on the wrist (http://www.silicon.com/a45378 ). Despite years of legal battling, lobbying and a 125 page opinion upheld in US law courts outlining a variety of abusive and exclusionary conduct, the deal thrashed out does little to limit Microsoft's behaviour. For many it is a sell out, just as Microsoft moves its focus to Windows XP (http://www.silicon.com/a48827 ). Relations between the Bush administration and Microsoft look set to be strengthened even further next year as Gate's security chief, Howard Schmidt, takes up a post as a White House special advisor on cybercrime. The software giant has also been very active this side of the Atlantic. Contract wins with the Ministry of Defence (http://www.silicon.com/a49004 ) and the NHS (http://www.silicon.com/a48174 ) helped secure a large foothold in UK government's procurement department. Indeed, Alan Milburn, UK Health Secretary, recently announced an £83m cash injection into the health service's IT departments. The more cynical may suggest such a move will do more for the health of Mr Gates' company than the NHS. Gates has even managed to endear himself to the Queen (http://www.silicon.com/a49755 ). The world was rocked by the news that the Royal Family has ditched Linux in favour of Microsoft software for its web server needs. Note to self, check the New Year's honour list. And finally, since it is the season of goodwill to all men, a moment should be spent on Microsoft's corporate philanthropy department... For the second part of this review, click here: http://www.silicon.com/a50101
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