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Microsoft exec: OS competition is imminent

Software delivery on the Net and budding open-source operating systems means that the software giant faces plenty of competition, its No. 3 executive says.

WASHINGTON--Software delivery on the Net and budding open-source operating systems mean one thing: Microsoft faces plenty of competition, its No. 3 executive said today.

During redirect in the software giant's antitrust trial under way here, Microsoft's day in court Paul Maritz, group vice president for platforms and applications at Microsoft said that Be OS, Linux, and the burgeoning applications being built for these systems pose a serious threat to the company's market dominance. Online software distribution also threatens to weaken Microsoft's OEM bundling agreements, he added.

"They constitute direct competition with Windows. Unless we respond to it, we run the risk of our operating system becoming a commodity," Martiz said. "You'll now be able to download software at a very fast rate. This could change the nature of our industry. OEM [distribution] could become eclipsed."

Yesterday, Maritz argued that open-source operation systems are gaining popularity, "It's almost as though village blacksmiths of the world can build axles in their backyards and compete with General Motors."

The testimony aims to squelch the Justice Department (DOJ) allegations that the software giant is a monopoly. The government and 19 states allege that Microsoft proposed dividing markets with Netscape Communications and other companies, a claim that Microsoft denies. The government also alleges that Microsoft's dealings with RealNetworks and Intel, for example, are part of a broad pattern of conduct that violates antitrust laws.

Maritz is the highest-ranking Microsoft executive testifying at the trial here, now in its fourth month. He rebutted DOJ assertions that operating systems like Linux don't even intend to compete with Microsoft.

"Linux is a very complete, sophisticated OS," he said. "They have a lot of work being done to improve it, and there is--and will be--a large number of applications for it."