The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the 19 US states who successfully sued Microsoft over Anti-Trust violations have requested that the US court spilt Microsoft in to two separate companies.
The first company will handle the Windows Operating System, while the other would handle applications including Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer.
It is not clear how this will affect Macintosh users, but some speculate that if broken into two, the “Apps” company will drop support for the Macintosh products, including Office, Explorer and Outlook Express, in favour of Linux based products (as well as retaining support for Windows). How true this will be remains to be seen as Microsoft have just, this week, announced previews of Microsoft Office 2001 for Macintosh and earlier in the year released Internet Explorer 5.0 and Outlook Express 5.02 for Macintosh, yet there has been no overt evidence of any Linux development of these, nor other, Microsoft products.
Microsoft has until May 10 to official respond to the DOJ proposal, but already senior Microsoft executives, including Bill Gates himself, have condemned the DOJ reports and have vowed to fight the decision and stated that Microsoft “has a very strong case on appeal” so it could be years before we the end of this story.
Great concern has been expressed over the effect such a spilt would have on shareholders’ portfolio values. Part of the report says that current Microsoft officials would not be able to hold stock in both companies, although ordinary shareholders would receive stock in both companies.
The DOJ report has requested that the two separated companies not be allowed to re-merge again for a minimum of ten years, but it is speculated that the forced re-organisation would most likely have unpredictable effects and there would never be any hope of merging the companies together again and that both consumers and the entire high-technology economy should be concerned at the long term effects the break up may have.
However, many take a more favourable view and look back to when AT&T was “broken up” in to the seven regional “Baby Bells”. AT&T and DOJ reached a settlement on that case – there was no court ruling “forcing” the break up. Very few would deny that the break up of AT&T was hard on the new companies initially, but they have survived and flourished in the highly competitive communications market place and consumers benefited the most with savings and improved products and service. Surely, Microsoft, if its’ products are as good as they claim, will also be compete fairly and allow all players in the OS, application and web browser markets to flourish and for those benefits to flow on to the consumer.
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