Speaking as someone who will be interviewing at Microsoft next week,
and gave several talks two years ago about how Web functionality
will be moving into the OS, the reason MS is being slapped right now
is because their executives made the mistake of acting like arrogant fools
when caught red-handed in trying to tie Win95+IE2. IE2 was not OS
functionality, and redistributors were doing the uninstall themselves,
but Microsoft threatened to cancel their discount reseller contracts
if they removed IE2.
When confronted with this obvious breech of the earlier settlement,
the MS execs made disparaging remarks about the Justice Dept attorneys,
claimed they were in bed with their competitors, and then gave them the
legal version of the finger. If you were working in the Justice Dept,
would this kind of response cause you to
a) say thank you and go away
b) criticize your own allies, or
c) get pissed off and start kicking some serious butt?
This is not a witch hunt. It is a question of honor.
It took about three weeks for Microsoft to figure out that it wasn't
more powerful than the US government after all, at which point they
started equivocating on their previous positions, but the damage was
already done. The best that they can hope for now is that the legal
battle becomes so protracted that it won't matter what the result is.
If they had admitted the mistake up front, blamed it on an overzealous
marketer or on basic support concerns, and then promised not to tie
software distributed as a separate product to Win95, the Justice Dept
would have had their minor victory and gone off to play with Intel.
The result would have had no impact on Win98 or NT5.
The stories about NT5 being the next big battleground are right on
the mark. During the Microsoft PDC in San Diego, a large number of
developers were talking about how the market is shrinking as more
stuff gets included with NT5. The installer folks were already in
panic mode. All this investigating by the Justice Dept will make
it economically feasible for these small companies to take on Microsoft
rather than just switch product lines, and that's when MS corp will
be forced to split into independent units just to be free from lawsuits.