Memo from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to customers focuses on how the company's role in the industry will change now that the antitrust suit has been settled.
The following memo from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is the latest in an ongoing series of e-mails from Microsoft executives to customers about important issues facing consumers, business, industry and Microsoft itself. The memo, sent on Wednesday afternoon, focuses on how Microsofts role in the technology industry will change now that the antitrust suit has been settled.
Nov. 13, 2002
Thanks for subscribing to receive occasional emails from me, Bill Gates
and other Microsoft executives on important technology and
public-policy topics. We really appreciate your interest, and we value the comments
and questions that many readers have sent us in response to previous
Today, I want to share some thoughts about Microsofts changing role in
the technology industry now that the antitrust settlement has been
approved - about how we as a company are forging a new relationship with
our customers, our partners, the industry and governments around the
world. I believe we are creating an entirely new Microsoft.
THE SETTLEMENT AND BEYOND
Two weeks ago, the U.S. District Court ruled that our settlement with
the Department of Justice and nine States is in the public interest. The
settlement was reached through extensive mediation with the Department
of Justice and State Attorneys General, and has now been approved after
thorough judicial review. The settlement is tough but fair. It puts new
obligations and responsibilities on our company, and we fully embrace
them. We have already made many of the necessary changes, and we are
dedicated - from the top down - to living up to these obligations:
We are restricted in how we negotiate with computer manufacturers. We
now operate based on a transparent and uniform price list for the
Windows operating systems.
We are required to make design changes in the Windows user interface
so that access to certain Microsoft features can be removed to give
prominence to competitor products instead.
We have identified nearly 300 internal Windows interfaces and have
disclosed these (at no charge) to competitors and others in the industry
so that they can use these to interoperate with Windows.
We have made available for license the protocols that the Windows
desktop operating system uses to communicate with our Windows server
operating system. Competing server software vendors can acquire up to 113
protocols under this program.
Last week, in response to the judges directive, Microsofts Board of
Directors created a Compliance Committee that will be chaired by Dr.
James Cash of Harvard Business School, an outside member of our board. The
Committee has two other members - Ann McLaughlin Korologos, a former
U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Raymond Gilmartin, CEO of Merck. We also are
in the process of appointing members to a Technical Committee with the
Department of Justice. We have an Internal Compliance Officer. And we
have rigorous and ongoing oversight from the federal government, the
States and the Court.
A NEW KIND OF INDUSTRY LEADER
As CEO, I can personally assure you that Microsoft will commit all the
time, energy and resources necessary to follow through on our
responsibilities. But many people ask me: What have you learned from all this?
The answer is that we have learned a great deal from our experiences of
these past few years, in particular about our responsibilities as an
industry leader. During the antitrust lawsuit, not everyone in our
industry raced to support us. As we listened to our supporters - and our
critics - we learned that we needed to take a different perspective on
being a good industry leader.
Frankly, part of the problem was that, even five years ago, we still
tended to think of ourselves as the small startup company that we were
not so long ago. Today we recognize that our decisions have an impact on
many other technology companies. We have an important leadership role
to play in our industry, and we must play by new rules - both legally
and as determined by industry trends.
For example, we recognize that we need to support industry cooperation
in new and creative ways, as were doing in the development of
standards based on eXtensible Markup Language, or XML. The entire industry has
embraced XML as the universal way for computers to talk to each other
in a much richer way across the World Wide Web. Today companies like
Microsoft and IBM collaborate on enhancing XML-based standards while at
the same time competing to make innovative, easy-to-use software that
helps customers take advantage of the power of XML.
Another example of our dedication to doing a better job of industry
partnership is our recent work with IBM, VeriSign and other companies in
developing security solutions based on industry standards, enhancing
security for the entire technology industry and its customers.
Besides working better within our own industry, we are reaching out to
cooperate even more with national and local governments, and
international organizations. In fact, I think we are on the verge of a new era of
partnership with government - not just for our company, but for the
For example, were actively cooperating with governments at all levels
to fight identity theft, cyber-crime and attacks on the Internet, such
as the concerted attacks on DNS servers last month. With more and more
critical business transactions taking place on the Internet, hacking is
becoming a big-time crime - and security is fundamentally about
fighting a community of criminals who are looking to steal peoples
identities, break into banks or disrupt the Internet. Working together, industry
and government can restore the integrity of the Internet and help make
it more secure.
A NEW MICROSOFT
Microsoft has changed enormously since it started 27 years ago. When I
joined in 1980, we had about 30 employees, and we never dreamed, in our
wildest imaginations, that we would eventually employ over 50,000
people in more than 70 countries. I certainly never imagined that I would
someday be CEO of such a large and complex enterprise. When I assumed
that role almost three years ago, the goal was very clear - I would be
responsible for overall management of the company and business strategy,
and Bill would focus on working with the product groups and developing
our long-term technological vision.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the difference between a good
company and a truly great company. I definitely think that Microsoft is a
very good company - and I want to make Microsoft a truly great company
that is respected and successful over the next 50 years. Thats why I
spend so much of my time and energy working on the foundation of the
company - our people, our values, how we work across different groups
within the company, how we work with the industry and with government. If we
get those things right, then weve built the foundation for a truly
When we started, our goal was to put a PC in every home and on every
desk. Today, we have a new mission - to make great software that helps
people and businesses realize their potential. In many ways, this new
mission is simply an extension of the vision that has driven us from the
beginning. We see an opportunity for our technology to go from running
PCs to connecting people to all the information they need - at home, at
work and in the classroom.
This broader mission is reflected in our internal organization. We have
built a new series of leadership teams for each of our business
segments. We remain unified around a shared platform and a shared vision for
improving peoples lives. But we have also built teams with a great deal
of accountability and independence to strive to be the best in new,
emerging areas of technology.
Along with this new management approach, we have affirmed a set of
basic values that are now part of every employees performance review. It
starts with integrity and honesty. Were committed to being upfront
about what we are doing and who it affects, open in communicating about
every aspect of our business, and sensitive to the new issues of
corporate governance that have become increasingly important to market
One of the hallmarks of Microsoft is that we dream big. That is why
were investing record sums in the future - US$5 billion for R&D this year
alone. Were passionate in our belief that technology can change the
world and improve peoples lives. We dont always succeed, but if one of
our products falls short, we dont sugarcoat the problems. We are
accountable for our actions, and we always dig in and make it better.
We are renewing our commitment to improve our communications with
partners and customers. We are dedicated to being a responsible leader in
our industry. And we are passionate about bringing the benefits of
digital technology to every community in the world. Everything we do supports
our mission of becoming a global technology provider that makes great
software to help people realize their potential - whether thats on the
PC, the Internet, or a gaming or handheld device.
As a company, we have changed and grown over the past few years. We are
committed to being a great partner and a responsible industry leader,
and, above all, we remain unceasingly optimistic about the future.
Thanks again for your interest.