Reaction from small software developers to Judge Thomas Penfield Jacksons ruling against Microsoft Corp. depends largely on how closely the developers are aligned to the software giant and its Windows platform.
ISVs (independent software vendors) closest to Microsoft showed the most angst at the possibility of a breakup or other harsh court-imposed penalties should Microsoft ultimately lose the antitrust case.
"Without Microsoft, companies like us wouldnt exist," said David Perez, CEO of Com2001.com Inc., a Del Mar, Calif., company that makes Windows NT-based communications servers. "We would have no platform, no standards to work with."
Other developers counter that lessening Microsofts ability to abuse its monopoly would spur competition, especially among smaller vendors. Security vendors in particular are nervous about Microsoft building security functions into Windows.
"For companies in the security and trust space, the net of this is positive," said Wyatt Starnes, CEO and president of Tripwire Security Systems Inc., of Portland, Ore. "Customers are going to be looking for third-party products to work in tandem with Microsoft products."
Some ISVs believe that splitting Microsoft into three companies -- one controlling operating systems, another the applications and a third for Internet services -- would create an even fiercer competitor.
"The pieces of Microsoft that may emerge out of this ... would be pretty formidable as competitors," said Ted Jastrzembski, CEO of Tally Systems Corp., of Lebanon, N.H., developer of utilities for networks and messaging systems, including Microsoft Exchange.
"A Microsoft unimpeded could be a wet hornet," he said. "If Bill Gates is brought kicking and screaming to splitting up his baby, you can bet he is going to be competitive."
Some ISVs were more favorable to other potential remedies, such as releasing Windows source code.
"We could tweak the problems with our product and solve them faster," said Jon Henderson, program manager at Three D Graphics, a Los Angeles firm that makes a charting program for Microsoft Office. "We would learn how to make applications work as good as Microsofts."