Microsoft proved last week just how strong a stomach it has for coping with the vagaries of high-tech life, announcing a new president and a new version of its Windows operating system while at the same time confirming it is cooperating with a new federal antitrust investigation into its business practices.
Chairman Bill Gates kicked off the week by giving demonstrations of the new Windows XP operating system, previously code-named Whistler. Scheduled to ship in the second half of this year, Windows XP is built on Microsofts Windows 2000 engine and sports the biggest change in the OS interface since Windows 95. It also boasts features, the company said, that will make it easy for users to unite “PCs, devices and services,” such as digital cameras, scanners, music players and online music services. “People,” Gates said, “want to do more and more with their PCs.”
Windows XP PCs, Gates added, are at the centerpiece of the companys .Net strategy, an initiative that calls for the creation of new Web-based software and services that can interact with and update desktop- and device-bound applications.
Helping to sell the new OS and the .Net vision will be Rick Belluzzo, former chief executive of Silicon Graphics who joined Microsoft in September 1999 and has been overseeing its MSN online service. Belluzzo was named president and chief operating officer, with responsibility for sales, marketing, business development and operations. He replaces six-year Microsoft veteran Bob Herbold, who will not leave Microsoft a poor man. Herbold has sold or registered to sell shares worth about $88 million.
Meanwhile, as Microsoft readies for scheduled oral arguments in its ongoing antitrust case with the government later this month, the Department of Justice acknowledged it is scrutinizing Microsofts $135 million October investment in its longtime rival Corel. The deal may bear study because Corel offers one of the few suites of business applications that competes with Microsoft Office, which has more than 90 percent of the market for such software. Besides a Windows version, Corel offers its WordPerfect 2000 Office for Linux.
Microsofts deal doesnt preclude Corel from developing applications for other platforms, said company spokesman Jim Cullinan. “We think this deal is pretty straightforward and that there are no legal issues of concern.”