The untouchables no more

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson isn't the type to hold back. Nothing intimidates him, nothing fazes him. Evidently, not even Microsoft. He's the kind of fella that tells it like it is. Some say that's debatable. However, the man Microsoft has feared for the last two years made history last week. He told the world that the once untouchables of the IT industry had fallen from grace. They broke the law, they're crooks and they must be stopped.

No sweat for Microsoft though. They've got the appeal process to save them, right? Perhaps. But don't be fooled, they're still worried. After all, they have just been described as a predacious, illegal, profit-maximising marketing machine. Add to that Wall Street's initial reaction showing shares had fallen 14.47 per cent, closing down $US15.75 at 90.5 and you know it's got to hurt, even a tad. Especially when its stock had been as high as $US109 the week before when there were strong reports of a settlement.

So what's in store for Gates and the boys? A slap on the wrist perhaps? Most industry pundits are betting on one of two penalties. Microsoft will either be forced to split into various companies - an act Microsoft says it will fight to the bitter end, or, limits will be enforced as to how the company can do business in the future with partners and customers.

Yet despite this being a setback for Microsoft, the case is far from over, according to several analysts.

"Microsoft will have to fight hard in court and in the court of public opinion. Remember, Microsoft won on appeal last time. The twists and turns of the justice system are sharp," according to Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Gartner Group.

As for what this means for you and me, most industry observers would agree with "not much", at least for the time being. Some are saying users may use this ruling as a negotiating tool to score better licensing terms from Microsoft. Some would call that payback.

Angela_Prodromou@idg.com.au

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