SAN FRANCISCO (06/08/2000) - It's the year 2005. You wake up to the alarm on your JavaWin Pocket PC. It reads you today's news from MSNBC/AOL Time Warner:
"Bill Gates has been fired after a hostile takeover of Microsoft Windows by Sun Microsystems Inc. Sun will continue to incorporate Windows in its Java platform, says Sun head Scott McNealy."
Yet more Microsoft Corp. controversy? You shrug.
After a quick sonic shower, you check your e-mail on your Pocket PC. "You've got mail," it answers. Looks like your co-worker Ed finally e-mailed that Excel spreadsheet.
You set down your Pocket PC in favor of your AOL/MSNWebTV. There, you click on the Maple Leaf icon for Microsoft Application's MSWebsoft.com subsidiary. You open Microsoft NetWord to make final changes to your proposal. An animated dancing dollar sign informs you, "You have ten hours of Microsoft NetWord left this month; would you like to buy more?"
You finish the proposal, attach the spreadsheet, and save the files in your public folder at MSWebsoft for others on your team. You notice the vast number of applications the site now hosts on its Linux servers, thanks to Microsoft Application's takeover of Corel and subsequent move to Canada. But according to MSNBC news playing over your WebTV, your MSWebsoft stock is down--because of a Justice Department investigation of its ties to Microsoft Windows.
Yes, you're still living in Microsoft's world -- or, rather, worlds of Microsofts.
While this scenario is pure speculation, we're awash in speculation after District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson released his decision to break Microsoft into applications and operating system companies. Here are a few other scenarios:
* Microsoft wins its appeal and remains a unified company.
* Microsoft loses its appeal and breaks up according to Jackson's order with Chief Executive Steve Ballmer in charge of one company, and Bill Gates the other.
* Big investors convince the company to drop the appeal and break in two rather than accept ongoing behavioral remedies. Profits soar and both companies forge partnerships with former foes.
* Microsoft settles the case by turning Windows over to the open-source community and then focuses on Windows-based Web services, embedded systems, and hosted applications.
* George W. Bush is elected president. Under his administration, the Justice Department drops the suit, followed by the states.
* The case lingers in the courts for years, after an appeal to go straight to the Supreme Court is rejected. Meanwhile, the market changes radically with the explosive growth of wireless (and mostly non-Windows) Net devices.
That Urge to Merge
Breakups cloud even the best crystal balls, as the AT&T example shows. The telephone colossus split into eight companies, which have merged and split again to form even more companies, in ways unimaginable when the breakup decree was signed.
Try now to imagine, say, Microsoft's applications company merging with Disney to become the largest e-entertainment company, or Microsoft's Windows group starting to buy up Baby Bells. By 2005, the two Microsoft companies even might be able to play together under certain conditions, under the umbrella of some other partner or through a subsequent merger.
Two safe predictions: Experts will keep debating the fate of the software giant and its effect on customers. And whatever happens, you'll still be running plenty of Microsoft products in 2005.