TECHED: MS users don't care about antitrust case

Users gathered here for Microsoft's TechEd conference seem uninterested in the company's legal woes.

Although the historic antitrust case brought against Microsoft has been dissected by analysts and blanket-covered by the press, the topic elicited a collective yawn from users interviewed on Monday at the conference.

No, their companies don't seem concerned that Microsoft's product development road map will fall apart if the company is split into two independent companies, as the US Department of Justice wants, users said.

No, their companies aren't thinking twice about buying Microsoft products in light of the court's finding that the company violated antitrust laws, they said.

And no, nothing has changed nor will change any time soon for them, they said, despite the court's recent ruling that Microsoft's illegal behaviour has harmed competition and consumers. The antitrust case just hasn't appeared on their radar screens as something they should be paying too much attention to or getting too worried about.

At this event, attended mostly by application developers, talk centres on the raft of new and upgraded products the software vendor is in the process of unveiling this year, including major upgrades to its SQL Server database, its Windows operating system and its Exchange messaging and collaboration server.

Some 14,000 attendees have been busy packing technical sessions, attending presentations and roaming the exhibit floor to learn about configuring firewalls, developing internet applications and using XML.

Even the person who probably cares the most about the government's intention to fundamentally alter Microsoft's structure and business operations ignored the topic on Monday: the company's chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, didn't address the issue during his almost two-hour long keynote on Monday.

"I don't feel (the case) has had any effect yet. Plus, they've got years of appeals ahead of them," said Mark Whitehurst, a technical consultant at Reynolds Metals, who came to the conference to learn more about enhancements to Exchange.

Aline Click hasn't sensed any concern over Microsoft's legal battles among IT people at Northern Illinois University, where she is an education services manager at the Division of Continuing Education. The school wants to expand its distance-learning program, so she came to the conference to gather information about Microsoft products that can be used to teach courses over the internet, such as Exchange and the NetMeeting videoconferencing and collaboration product, she said.

"There's been no serious discussions about the antitrust case at my company that I know of," said a desktop support specialist from a large global company based in Texas with over 100,000 users worldwide. The user, who requested anonymity, came to the event to stay abreast of the latest developments in Microsoft products, a challenging task because of the company's ongoing flurry of new releases and upgrades, he said.

"I don't think it's something that will affect us," said Josh Larson, an applications developer at Peter Kiewit Sons, a construction company in Omaha, Nebraska.

Clay Electric in Keystone Heights, Florida, isn't too concerned about the case either, said Don Herring, a technical analyst at the company who came to the conference to find out the latest about Exchange and SQL Server.

Another user echoed his peers' sentiments.

"We're not concerned now. It won't affect us," said Guillermo Lock, a systems engineer at Federal Data.

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