Microsoft delays to appease judge

Microsoft is focusing its strategy on appeasing the US Department of Justice rather than on serving the needs of corporate users,...

Microsoft is focusing its strategy on appeasing the US Department of Justice rather than on serving the needs of corporate users, according to industry analysts.

Cliff Saran

This week, the antitrust case against Microsoft is expected to reach a climax with a ruling by Judge Penfield Jackson. The software giant risks being split into two or more operating companies. The ruling comes in the week that Microsoft postponed the announcement of its latest Internet strategy - Next Generation Windows Services.

Dale Vile, a senior analyst at Bloor Research, said that if Microsoft announced Next Generation Windows this week it could influence Jackson's ruling. "Technically it makes sense to withhold the Next Generation strategy until after the ruling. Microsoft would then be in a position to construct a strategy which it could then use in the appeals process," said Vile.

Although it is not officially an operating system, Next Generation Windows Services offers plenty of operating system-like features, including a new user interface, natural language processing, application development support, schemas and a new file system.

Simon Moores, chairman of the Windows NT Forum, said Microsoft cannot abort its strategy because of the antitrust case. But its decision to delay announcing it suggests that Microsoft may believe a split of the company is likely.

"There is obviously a body of thinking within Microsoft on how to handle being broken in two or more parts," said Moores.

A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed that the company did not want to unveil its new strategy at the same time as the antitrust ruling. The judge's ruling, expected on 1 June, would clash with the strategy announcement. "We want to pick the best possible time to deliver our news about the strategic reinvention of Microsoft," she said.

Originally due to be unveiled at Forum 2000 on 1 June, the strategy will now be announced on 22 June.

Five and a half years ago, Gates made a U-turn, when he announced a far-reaching Internet strategy. Prior to this, Microsoft's Internet strategy had been to build the Microsoft Network (MSN) as a proprietary rival network to the Internet.

It was the 1995 Microsoft Internet strategy that broke the 1994 Consent Decree with the US Department of Justice, leading to the antitrust case that has led to the US government seeking to split the company in two.

Next Generation Windows

Next Generation Windows Services is a strategy for delivering the infrastructure to provide services that run across the Web The strategy is expected to unveil a roadmap for linking applications, services and devices over the Internet using HTTP, XML and Soap (Microsoft's XML-based cross-platform object architecture).

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