No surrender. That is the message that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer gave after hearing the judge's guilty verdict yesterday.
During a press conference held one hour after Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's 45-page verdict was released, Gates told reporters that Microsoft will be vindicated by the appeals process.
"While we did everything we could to settle this case and will continue to look for new opportunities to resolve it without further litigation, we believe we have a strong case on appeal," he said.
Microsoft announced its intention to ask for an expedited appeal as soon as Judge Jackson released his verdict.
The judge's decision that Microsoft broke several US antitrust laws "was not unexpected", said the company. Gates, Ballmer and William Neukon, Microsoft's general counsel, said that there are grounds to win an appeal. They also said that an overturn of a previous decision by the judge against Microsoft over the bundling of Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows has set a precedent for further reversals.
But yesterday Jackson once again found that Microsoft "tied" IE with Windows, which goes against a US law that prevents companies selling one product and forcing customers to buy a second.
While much of the judge's opinion was damning, Microsoft found some comfort in certain sections. For example, Jackson wrote that the company's arrangements with PC makers and distributors did not affect Netscape's ability to distribute its Navigator browser.
The next stage in the trial is the penalty phase, but no timescale has been announced. The US Department of Justice and the US 19 states that brought the lawsuits against Microsoft are expected to ask that temporary penalties be imposed.
On whether an out of court settlement could still be negotiated, Ballmer said Microsoft would proceed further if it saw an "appropriate openness", and claimed that the company "really put our heart, our souls and our time into trying to offer up everything that addressed the concerns".
Gates added: "Some of the parties were pushing for extreme things that we didn't think were in anyone's best interests."
Jackson's verdict is now expected to open the floodgates for about 115 consumer class action lawsuits filed against Microsoft. Ballmer said the lawsuits are without merit. "Consumers haven't been harmed. Quite the contrary. We feel very good about all the benefits we have provided for consumers at just incredible prices," he said.
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