Well it was bound to happen, wasn't it? Microsoft looks as though it will emerge relatively unscathed from its three-year antitrust battle with the US government.
In a consent decree brokered by the two parties last week, chairman Bill Gates said the tentative agreement, which stops short of breaking up the company but calls for some concessions, was a "fair compromise on our side".
But many US states and rival IT figures have blasted the settlement as merely a slap on the wrist, rather than the far-reaching legislation they were hoping would level the playing field and loosen Microsoft's grip on the industry.
If the settlement goes through, a panel of observers will have access to Microsoft's code and API middleware to ensure that third-party offerings will work in harmony with the Windows platform.
In addition, the relationship with PC makers, independent software vendors and others will benefit from a clause which stops Microsoft dictating which applications are pre-loaded onto the Windows desktop.
Reacting to the terms of the deal, one unnamed reseller said that a panel of three to oversee the entire Microsoft empire was like "asking three UN soldiers to keep the peace among the warring factions in the former Yugoslavia". I tend to agree.
While I am glad that there is progress in this case, which has probably dragged on for too long, I don't see how the terms of the deal will prevent Microsoft from doing what it has done best from its inception: exactly what it wants.
However, it will at least allow the smaller system builders and resellers more flexibility in offering third-party products to customers, such as including fellow Seattle software company Real Networks' multimedia player instead of Windows Media Player, without fear of retribution.
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