Users not convinced by Microsoft ruling

Yesterday's ruling against Microsoft Corp. has not settled the debate among corporate users over whether the government was right or wrong to bring its historic antitrust lawsuit. But some users are worried about the potential impact a drastic remedy may have on the software industry, and they fear it may raise their software costs.

In the ruling, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said Microsoft had broken the law to maintain its monopoly in desktop operating systems (see story). The company was accused of mounting a "deliberate assault" and of doing "violence" on the competitive process. Jackson must now decide a remedy in the case, which Microsoft has already announced it plans to appeal. The appeal process could take two or more years.

End-user opinion on the judge's ruling was mixed.

"It was fair — the language was a little strong — but it definitely was a fair ruling," said Don Graham, the information technology manager at Genesis Health Care Systems in Zanesville, Ohio.

But Graham doesn't necessarily believe that Microsoft has placed what the judge termed an "oppressive thumb" on the IT industry, hurting innovation.

"It's clearly a monopoly, but I don't know if users suffered for it," said Graham, who believes that the judge should avoid breaking up the company in favor of seeking changes to its business practices.

The judge's verdict was an "overreaction," said Clifford Dubord, the IT manager at nuclear power plant Nine Mile Point near Lake Ontario in New York. He believes that Microsoft isn't all that different in its business practices from some other large software vendors.

Many of the large vendors "play similar tactics — they are all out there to get as much as they possibly can," said Dubord, who worries that a breakup could increase end-user costs.

Some users say they weren't shocked by the verdict or rattled in their belief that government was wrong to sue Microsoft.

"I just think the government should stay out of it," said Chester Merithew, the information systems director at Republic Industries Inc., a cabinet-making company in Marshall, Texas.

Microsoft's competitors should have brought any antitrust lawsuits, said Merithew. "If they had a problem with Microsoft, it should have been them filing the suit instead of the Department of Justice and 19 states," he said.

"There's been some problem, but overall (Microsoft) has done well for the industry," said John Vigorito, the IS manager at CLL Container, a packaging products supplier in Hermitage, Pa.

Vigorito believes a break up of Microsoft will have little impact on his business, "but on the IT industry it will have a big impact and it will be a negative one," he predicted, including higher software prices and less service.

"Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that the DOJ moved as quickly as they have," said David Dubnick, director of information technology at U.S. Cellular Corp. in Chicago.

"On the other hand, just because they ruled Microsoft a monopoly doesn't change how they do business today," Dubnick said. "The clock on what the government will do has not been established yet, so I guess I still have to say 'Film at 11.' "

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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