Bill Gates got a boost from an unexpected corner on Friday, with two bitter arch rivals conceding that the US government should not go too far in penalising Microsoft
At a conference in San Jose, two of the most visible anti-Microsoft ringleaders, Sun president and chief executive Scott McNealy and Oracle chairman and chief executive Larry Ellison both suggested that the government need not take drastic remedial steps against Microsoft.
Speaking at the "Outlook Conference", organised by the San Francisco Bay Area Council, Larry Ellison suggested that market forces would push Microsoft away from its dominant position.
"The PC will become a peripheral product to the Internet, regardless of the anti-trust trial," said Ellison. He predicted that this would lead to a market dominated by open standards, not monopoly: "The Microsoft monopoly will be broken."
Scott McNealy, speaking later the same day, also predicted the imminent demise of the PC. But he believes that continued government scrutiny, not market forces, were still needed to break Microsoft's hold over the market.
"[The Sherman antitrust act] ought to be enforced, or we ought to take it off the books," argued McNealy. But he admitted that the mere presence of government scrutiny might in itself be sufficient, referring to the decade long anti-trust prosecution of IBM.
"That was exactly the way to do it," said McNealy, "It's all about having the radar gun pointed at you all the time...Microsoft can bundle the kitchen sink if they don't have the radar gun of the government pointed at them. All it needs is 17 years of scrutiny - or whatever it takes."
McNealy said that the Department of Justice had done a good job so far in enforcing the Anti-trust Act, and, "should be given more credit."
McNealy claimed the IBM anti-trust case had allowed companies like Apple and Microsoft to prosper, but in a surprising turn, added: "If they had split up IBM, we would have lost a great company."
After his speech, VNU Newswire asked McNealy if this statement meant that he did not believe Microsoft should itself be split up.
"I have never been in favour of breaking up Microsoft," McNealy responded, "I believe there are better remedies and I have discussed those with the people who need to know."
Scott McNealy had opened his speech with a promise not to bash Microsoft. But he did not quite keep this resolution long - 15 minutes later, he was warning that a bigger danger than Y2K would be W2K, for Windows 2000.
Larry Ellison also bashed Windows 2000, calling it, "the most complex engineering effort in the history of mankind" because of its more than 30 million lines of code.
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