SAN MATEO (05/05/2000) - Microsoft Corp. is slated to respond to the U.S.
Department of Justice's recommendation that the company be broken up as punishment for its antitrust offenses, but many of the proposed restrictions drew negative reactions from IT managers who voiced concern over Microsoft's ability to add functionality to its operating systems.
The department proposed that Microsoft be required to disclose APIs and other code it uses to let its middleware products interoperate with Windows.
Microsoft also would be barred from throwing up impediments that block other middleware products from working with Windows.
Although Microsoft's competitors may cheer such a move, the company's customers may not share their enthusiasm. Eric Kuzmack, systems architect at Silver Spring, Maryland-based Gannett, a Windows NT and Office shop, said Microsoft's hands should not be tied when it comes to improving its products.
"Having a choice between competitors is important," said Kusmack, a member of InfoWorld's Corporate Advisory Board. "But if Microsoft puts some feature in its operating system that removes for me the need to purchase a third product, as long as it works and is stable and does what I need it to do, that helps me."
It is unclear what effect government-imposed restrictions would have on Microsoft's big Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), a project so important to the company that Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates is overseeing its development.
One source described NGWS as "a completely Internetized Windows" that will seek to be a platform for Internet services. NGWS will be built on COM+ 2.0, which has yet to enter beta, the developer said.
A restriction from adding middleware to Windows 2000 would wipe out a huge advantage Microsoft enjoys with its Component Object Model (COM), and its successor, COM+, over competing technologies such as Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB), one analyst said.
"If the Justice Department prevails, COM+ -- which includes not only a middleware component model but also a transaction processing engine, an HTTP server, and a COM application server -- is about to get deconstructed," said Paul Harmon, a consultant at Cutter Information, in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Microsoft must respond to the department's remedies proposal by May 10, the centerpiece of which was a proposal to divide Microsoft into two companies, one that builds Windows and one that handles the rest of its offerings.
Microsoft will file a request for time to formulate a more detailed response in the antitrust case, Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said. Microsoft is compelled to seek more information to formulate a defense against the complex proposal because of "the size of the case," Cullinan said.
Microsoft reportedly will ask U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to consider throwing out the government's plan, saying that the Justice Department relied on evidence to draw up the remedies that was not brought up during the antitrust trial. One source said that Microsoft was particularly upset to learn of one department claim: The software giant tried to sabotage the way Palm synchronization software interoperates with Windows, a point not debated at trial.
Jackson scheduled remedies hearings for May 24, but that date could be postponed if Microsoft is able to succeed in obtaining a delay.
Additional reporting on this article by Jack McCarthy of the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.