Microsoft users watch networks, not courtroom

As Microsoft Corp. was arguing for its life last week in a federal courtroom, the software giant's customers were going about business as usual.

Given that the 3-year-old case could drag on for another year or two, most IT executives are forging ahead on their strategies involving Microsoft software.

"We are not changing course. Our strategy has not changed with regard to Microsoft," says George Graves, chief technologist for QVC Inc., the cable television channel with more than US$3 billion in annual sales. "The case is background noise. If anything, now we don't feel any pressure to go to Windows 2000. In evaluating our upgrade cycle, we're more concerned with licensing costs, which seem to be going up."

Others voiced the same sentiments.

"No matter the outcome, it won't affect us in any way," says Larry Fillmore, network manager for the Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine. "If [Microsoft is forced to] split, we'll just buy from each of the two sides."

A pair of studies released last week by IDC bear out that enterprise customers continue to gobble up Microsoft's desktop and server systems. The studies show Windows accounted for 41 percent of server operating system shipments in 2000 and an overwhelming 92 percent of shipments on the client side. Microsoft's server shipments jumped 20 percent in 2000 to 2.5 million. Only Linux, with 24 percent, had a higher percentage growth.

In addition to operating system gains, Microsoft is keeping users interested with developments in other areas.

"They have done a lot of good work with [Simple Object Access Protocol] and are far out in front," says Eric Hancock, a software developer with Home Box Office in New York. SOAP is based on XML and provides a standard way to send remote procedure calls over the Web.

Hancock says the trial confirms what he has known all along about Microsoft's aggressive tactics. "The trial is bad PR more than anything. The battle over the browser has been won."

Microsoft hopes that isn't the only victory. Last week during oral arguments, seven justices in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit expressed skepticism over a lower court's ruling that Microsoft illegally maintained a monopoly in the operating system market. Observers now question whether an order to break up the company issued last year by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who also was blasted for post-trial comments about Microsoft, will survive the appeal.

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