Ruling Not a Shock to IT Users

Judge approves Microsoft remedies with little change.

The Microsoft Corp. remedy deal crafted with the Department of Justice in November 2001 elicited more written comments from the public than any other settlement reviewed under the Tunney Act, with comments running 2-1 against the settlement. But while Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly this month approved the deal with few changes, major IT users expressed little surprise at the outcome.

While the attorneys general for the nine nonsettling states and the District of Columbia continued late last week to deliberate over whether to appeal the ruling issued Nov. 1, users assessed the impact of Microsofts victory. There remains disagreement on whether the decision was positive or negative, but few said it would have any substantial effect on the software industry.

"I believe [Kollar-Kotelly] made the only unbiased ruling that could be made," said Eddie Holman, manager of systems IT operations at Visteon Corp., in Sandusky, Ohio. "The nine nonsettling states were looking to bolster the standing of Microsoft competitors in their states. Make a better product or provide a better service, and, eventually, the competition will cry unfair."

Some see the few conditions the judge added to the settlement as lending it some teeth, particularly in enforcement. The judge rejected the states request for a special master, ordering them instead to set up an enforcement committee that will have access to Microsofts source code, books, ledgers, accounts and other materials.


As a result of the order, Microsoft must:
  • Allow OEMs to install non-Microsoft products
  • Ensure that OEMs and end users can remove access to Windows functionsMicrosoft does not have to:
  • Unbundle Windows from Microsoft middleware
  • Broadly disclose technical information
  • Include handheld or Web services technologies
Following the states proposal, Kollar-Kotelly ordered Microsoft to appoint a compliance officer, and she made it clear that she will hold the companys directors responsible for implementing the settlement.

"The thing that I believe is encouraging is the appointment of a compliance officer, a high-level Microsoft employee who must retain a significant amount of autonomy and independence from the corporation," said David Moskowitz, CIO and chief technology officer at Productivity Solutions Inc., in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. "The same person is responsible to both the company and the court."

The protection against retaliation for OEMs, which the judge expanded to include the "threat of retaliation," also suggests to users that changes in the marketplace may result.

"The [ruling] seems to protect OEMs from some of the bullying Microsoft apparently engaged in in the past," said Randy Galbraith, an IT professional at Pegasus Solutions Inc., in Phoenix. "No matter how Microsoft tries to characterize its behavior, it is now a matter of public record." Galbraith said he would have preferred to see Microsoft barred from OEM agreements if it could not demonstrate consumers were given a choice.