In this long national nightmare known as the Microsoft-DOJ case, weve learned not to count on the software company from Redmond, Wash., to do the right thing. Now is the time to change that perception.
We wanted the company to settle out of court before the case went to trial. Even before that, we wanted it to stop being so cavalier and bullying about business practices. We wanted it to cooperate in pretrial depositions. Once the case was on trial, we wanted Microsoft to not pull any fast ones hidden behind the complexities of its software. At each step, we were disappointed.
Once Judge Jacksons guilty verdict was handed down, many of us wanted a breakup order, though we would have preferred a swift settlement. Again we were disappointed, as the company stubbornly fought the verdict and any reasonable attempt to settle.
Since then, the company has won a series of skirmishes, getting Jacksons breakup order reversed and then getting rid of Jackson himself. But still no progress at a settlement.
Now, with the Department of Justice and the 18 participating states dropping their pursuit of a breakup as well as dropping the call for a retrial on the illegal browser-bundling issue in Windows 95 and Windows 98, it seems we have a new ballgame. Legal experts, as reported in eWeek by Peter Galli last week, were confused by the DOJ giving up two of its leverage points against the company. What could motivate Microsoft to settle now, when it wouldnt budge even in the darkest hours following Jacksons original verdicts last year?
I offer a suggestion: Microsoft should do the right thing and settle. But will it, and what behavioral remedies will it accept? Worse, what if no settlement is reached and Microsoft is allowed to keep doing what it is doing, long into the so-called post-PC era, when Passport and HailStorm start becoming as ubiquitous as Windows? What then? One can hope that the DOJs moves are an olive branch offered the company as a steppingstone to a settlement or a quid pro quo that induces a settlement. Anything less, and our long national nightmare will continue.