Looks to me like Microsoft went two for two in the legal department over the last couple weeks.
First, on October 25, Microsoft escaped with only a $50 fine for plastering butterfly shaped advertising decals all over the NYC sidewalks as part of a promotion for its latest rev of its MSN Internet service. $50? You can get a $50 fine in the Big Apple for just thinking about parking next to a hydrant.
Second, and a far, far bigger deal for the folks in Redmond, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly "conditionally approved" the federal settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department. While the legal eagles can pour over the rulings for the next couple of weeks, Id say Microsoft escaped with a slap on the hand and maybe a little arm twist at the end.
Thats a far cry from speculation that Microsoft would be broken up like AT&T when the dust finally settled in Washington. And a far cry from the types of penalties that the Attorney Generals for nine states looking for harsher penalties were calling for. The nine states had sought harsher penalties against Microsoft, as a result of a District Courts finding that the company had abused its monopoly power in the Windows PC desktop market.
In the end, Microsoft holds if anything even a greater monopoly on the desktop than it did at the start its legal wranglings. Where you could argue that the monopoly trials were a result of Bill Gates desire to squash the threat posed by the Netscape browser at any cost, there is no equivalent threat on the desktop today.
Maybe the open software movement and the Linux on the desktop crowd may one day pose a threat, but right now scraping off a bunch of butterfly decals is a bigger issue for Microsoft than worrying about whose icons are on the startup screens of desktop computers.