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Commentary: Expect more of the same after Microsoft penalty ruling

The stage is set in the Microsoft antitrust case for nothing more than the continuance of the status quo.

See news story: Microsoft proposal derided as "neither serious nor sensible"

By Michael Gartenberg and Neil MacDonald

The stage is set in the Microsoft antitrust case for nothing more than the continuance of the status quo.

The government's final rebuttal today and U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling to follow will not end this ongoing saga.

For as long as the next two to three years, the government will continue to call for a Microsoft breakup as well as remedies to the software giant's behavior. Microsoft, on the other hand, will fight the proposed behavioral remedies--mainly through the appeals process--in an attempt to continue its dominance of the software industry.

Last week, Microsoft did offer to impose several restrictions on itself, but that was as part of a proposal asking for dismissal of the breakup remedy altogether.

Gartner would be surprised if U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling followed with anything less severe than the Microsoft breakup sought by the government.

The government and Microsoft remain at odds. Microsoft still maintains it has done nothing wrong other than offend its competitors. The government, on the other hand, charges that Microsoft has crossed the line and used illegal practices to maintain its dominant position.

As Microsoft continues to face ongoing legal battles, competitors such as Sun Microsystems, America Online, Corel and Red Hat will find increased opportunities in the marketplace, particularly if the U.S. Department of Justice and plaintiff states eventually prove victorious, and Microsoft is broken up.

Microsoft's challenge will be to stay focused on product quality, service delivery, product strategy and employee retention, and not let the legal battles serve as a distraction.

However, it is important to note that a chief reason Microsoft is fighting so strenuously is so it can continue to integrate and bundle its applications, a critical step for its Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), Microsoft's next big project.

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.