Had it not been for the Internet boom that drove customers sudden interest in Unix, Sun would be in much worse shape than it is today. Still, the company seems stuck with a bad business model, unable to jettison its hardware business to concentrate on operating systems and software. Sure, $1.9 billion is a wad of cash, but its still not enough money to salvage Sun.
While both companies will trudge on (and would do so even without Microsofts help), neither is in danger of seriously threatening Microsoft on a global basis. For that, you must turn to IBM, Red Hat and two competitors I will call "China Inc." and "India Inc." to represent Linux players in these emerging markets. This, especially the two new players, is what keeps Microsoft execs awake at night.
The Novell and Sun settlements arent something Microsoft really had to do, though it looks like one of the companys New Years resolutions must have been to get its legal mess cleaned up during 2004. And as with most things it does, Microsoft has largely succeeded.
Sure, there is still a battle with Novell over Microsofts attacks on WordPerfect that both sides predict will end up in court. Theres also another suit involving Real Networks and the European Union antitrust action to fight.
Still, compared to where Microsoft started the year, it will end 2004 with considerably fewer problems than it had when the ball dropped in Times Square last January. And Microsoft will have accomplished this at no significant cost to itself, at least for a company with nearly $65 billion in the bank.