User and analyst opinions are split on the landmark decision of a US court to separate Microsoft into two, with hopes for a more robust version of Windows mixed with fears about possible price increases.
As previously predicted, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson yesterday ruled in the antitrust case against Microsoft that the software giant should be split into an applications company and an operating systems vendor. Microsoft has been given four months to draw up plans for the separation, and be divided within a year.
A number of restrictions to its business practices are also to be imposed, including a requirement to provide the "timely" disclosure of Windows application programming interfaces to OEMs, and a ban preventing Microsoft making exclusive arrangements with such partners.
Hugh Macken, secretary of IT directors' association Certus, said it believed the split would improve Windows as an operating system, because it would have to "stand on its own two feet".
"If Microsoft were split into competitive entities it would have to improve Windows, which would have to compete as an operating system without the benefits of having applications tied into it," said Macken.
"IT directors are not frightened or concerned about the split which they believe will lead to a stronger and leaner Microsoft, although inevitably there will be some confusion in the early days," he added.
However, Simon Moores, chairman of the Microsoft Forums user group, said the absence of unitary Windows standards, which the split would produce, is bad news for users who have invested millions in Microsoft's approach.
He added that the business and conduct penalties imposed on Microsoft, which he said would open up the Windows environment, were too severe.
"Microsoft should be subjected to clamping through oversight of its business practices, rather than the lethal injection that is being proposed," said Moores.
"Placing Microsoft on death row for the equivalent of a parking offence is too severe, and the penalty does not reflect current conditions in the market."
Moores added that the development of Microsoft's Next Generation Windows Services, which blur the distinction between operating system and application, is threatened by the break-up.
Ashim Pal, programme director at research company Meta Group, predicted that the plan could hit users in the pocket through price increases, but he believes the court decision will have little short-term product impact.
"The ruling will have no impact on users for one product cycle, so it won't affect Windows 2000 or Exchange rollouts. It could also be [that] with the approaching US elections, the enthusiasm of the authorities to split Microsoft melts away," said Pal.
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