Microsoft Corp’s disasterous last few weeks in the Washington antitrust courtroom has set the US Justice Department and representatives of the 19 states into a discussions over just what might be done if they win the case. According to reports in the Washington Post on Monday, several scenarios are currently under consideration. As the Post commented, most observers of the trial believe that the odds are high that the judge will rule against Microsoft later this year. While a Justice Department official told Reuters that, because the trial was still ongoing speculation about what the department might do if the court rules in our favor is premature and inappropriate, the Post has heard that two scenarios, both of which have been aired before, are currently generating the most discussion. The first is to break Microsoft up into smaller pieces, (dubbed Baby Bills) each owning complete copies of Microsoft’s intellectual property. Conservative former judge and somewhat unlikely Netscape Communications Corp lobbyist Robert Bork has advocated this view in the past. The second is to split Microsoft into two different parts, an operating systems company and an applications company. This assumes that questions still being argued out in court over the boundaries between OS and application technology, particularly the broswer, can be resolved. Other regulatory approaches, such as an agreement to force Microsoft’s to license Windows technology to competitors, or an order to cease business practices ruled illegal by the court, are being viewed as the weakest options available. Meanwhile, this week’s court proceeding continues with Compaq Computer Corp vice president John Rose speaking up in favor of Microsoft. Rose is expected to attempt to throw doubt on the testimony of key government witness Stephen Decker, Compaq’s director of software procurement, who in pre-trial testimony claimed that Microsoft had forbidden Compaq to replace the Internet Explorer icon with Navigator. Rose has disputed Decker’s account before. While Compaq now adds Navigator to its PCs, it has done so only since the trial began, government lawyers are expected to point out. Gateway 2000 Inc and Hewlett-Packard Co faced similar obstructions from Microsoft, the government will argue, but would not testify for fear of offending Microsoft.
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