Channel Mixed Over Court Decision to Proceed With Microsoft Penalties In March

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Solution providers and channel observers offered mixed reactions to the court's decision on Monday to proceed with the remedy phase of the Microsoft antitrust case in March.

A federal judge Monday rejected Microsoft Corp.'s request to delay the hearings on what penalties should be applied against the software company for violating U.S. antitrust law.

The denial of the proposed delay keeps the remedy phase process on parallel track with the hearings on the proposed settlement between Microsoft and the U.S. Justice Department, which is adamantly opposed by state attorneys general in nine states.

Observers in the channel had mixed reactions to the judge's rejection of Microsoft's request for the delay. Some say the move enhanced the states' position in lobbying for harsher penaties while others simply want the antitrust case to go away.

"In one sense, justice delayed is justice denied and the federal judge agrees with that adage," said Alan Weinberger, chairman and CEO of The ASCII Group, a trade organization representing Microsoft solution providers. "It is in Microsoft's interest to delay as much as possible for many reasons. Since Microsoft has been found to have violate the anti-trust laws, the more delay the case takes, the more moot the remedy becomes."

One solution provider believes that at least some of the revised remedies proposed by the nine dissenting states don't make sense and won't fly, regardless of when the remedy hearings begin.

"It makes life little more difficult for Microsoft's legal team, but I do not think this will have a dramatic impact on the outcome," said Ian Chronister, senior industry adviser with Chronister Consultants, a consulting firm in Mobile, Ala. "The request of the nine opposing states, to produce a stripped down version of Windows, is silly. Aside from the development of niche market appliances, I simply do not see much of a purpose for a stripped down version of Windows. It certainly isn't something many personal PC owners of business customers would want."

While many say the resolution of the case won't affect the overall economic health of the nation to any degree, some loyal channel partners maintain the settlement ironed out should be given the stamp of approval as soon as possible and that the dissenting states should stop haggling the company.

"I would view this mostly as a minor administrative setback for Microsoft," said Michael Cocanower, president of ITSynergy, a solution provider in Phoenix, Ariz. "I agree in principle with Microsoft's position that the states are trying to expand the scope of the case. It strikes me as somewhat ironic that the states feel they need to use this opportunity to expand the scope of their case in order to accommodate the new issues that have arisen as a result of the rapidly changing technology industry landscape. As we look back later in hindsight, we may even see that this decision ended up as beneficial to Microsoft, as in my opinion the sooner Microsoft's legal issues are resolved the better."

"I still want this whole issue to go away," said Greg Sullivan, president of G.A. Sullivan, a St. Louis-based solution provider." It still amazes me that after all Microsoft has done for our country from an economic perspective our good government can find a way to treat them so. Let's get this over with so we can all go back to the business of being productive and contributing to the economy."

"Leave them alone already," griped Rich Figer, vice president of sales at S.B. Stone and Company in Cleveland, Ohio. "I guess I am just so done with all of the trials and legal stuff."

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