Speculation that Microsoft is considering acquiring BT was met with disbelief in the industry today.
Industry pundits put the rumours down to a number of possible factors - even a bid by Microsoft to deflect publicity over its agreement with the US Department of Justice.
One fact that nobody disputed was that BT?s shares jumped by 11.5 pence on the rumours on a day that most other stock prices fell.
The only area where BT and Microsoft have a close relationship is on the Internet, where they market managed Intranet services to UK organisations. Sold as Intranet Complete, BT hosts the network which runs Microsoft?s Back Office suite, as well as its messaging and Intranet products to help manage access and content material.
BT?s global network could be of particular interest to Microsoft, given the software giant?s ambitions surrounding networking. ?Microsoft already has the desktop and BT could bring the bits to join the desktops together,? suggested David Neal, telecomms analyst at the Gartner Group. ?BT could bring to the table a network infrastructure which is global in nature,? he continued.
But he added: ?The idea of a US software tsar buying a British institution politically does not ring true - the government would not allow it.?
Neal believes Microsoft could do better buying a new entrant with less political and historical baggage.
The only other area of BT that could be of interest to Microsoft is its interactive television initiative with BSkyB, British Interactive Broadcasting (BIB). BIB will develop an interactive TV platform for companies such as Sainsbury, HMV and Thomas Cook, enabling them to offer services ranging from home shopping to online banking. It will also offer educational programmes and specialist local community and national public information services.
Bill Gates could also be attracted to BT?s well respected research and development unit at Martlesham, which develops technology that is years ahead of its time. Its work could fit in with developments at Microsoft?s proposed Cambridge campus.
?As users we would be worried that we would be swapping one monopoly for another,? commented Martyn Hart, chairman of the Telecommunications Managers? Association. ?If Microsoft was to take over my network I would view this with extreme caution,? he said.
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