Microsoft settlement: users relieved

IT users in the UK have initially welcomed the US Department of Justice's deal with Microsoft, which has ended years of legal...

IT users in the UK have initially welcomed the US Department of Justice's deal with Microsoft, which has ended years of legal battles and doubt over the software giant's future.

"This sounds good for users," John Handby, chairman of CIO Connect, the IT directors' forum, told "Making Microsoft provide full disclosure is very good news because it will allow other companies to work within their system.

"Crucially for IT directors it will open up competition without taking away the key architecture. Microsoft has created a standard and users do not want to lose this, but they do want competition," Handby said.

Ambrose McGinn, IT director at Abbey National, applauded the news. "It is a positive move. It is going to provide more openness in the market and some consistency of approach from Microsoft," he said. "They're not going to be disaggregated, which is good, and we wouldn't want to see them lose the credibility they have built up."

"It is good to have a standard out there," commented Dave Berwick, Information Services (IS) operations manager at Mitsubishi Motors. "As a Microsoft house, it doesn't really affect us. If there had been a major change to the product, it would have been difficult, so in that respect it's good news."

Interim IT director Colin Beveridge held a similar opinion. "I was worried that the break-up of the company would cost people more in the long run because of the fragmentation of the licensing," he said. "It would also have prevented Microsoft from developing integrated products. It sounds good to me."

Len Graves, Microsoft spokesman for Socitm, the local authority IT directors' organisation, also welcomed the decision. "This is good for IT users everywhere because it will open up competition," said Graves. "Local government IT directors will be pleased, especially with the current Microsoft licensing issue rolling on," he said.

Like others, Graves thought Microsoft has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve.

"Microsoft must be unhappy about the deal and behind closed doors they must be thinking of a new strategy that will maintain their dominant position. They won't just give up their ground," he said.

"On the surface, the opening up of standards and disclosure to rivals is good news," Neil Hammond, head of corporate IS at Thomas Cook, told "However, I am cynical as to whether Microsoft will play fair with this. Their dominance has been established through proprietary standards and I cannot see them fully opening up."

Simon Moores, chairman of the Microsoft Forums, an organisation working on behalf of users, predicted that new battlegrounds would emerge.

"Microsoft has won the battle but it has not won the war. Through .Net, MS is attempting to own the middleware [of the Internet]," Moores said.

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