Network: What is Bill Gates up to?

The trial isn't over, but Microsoft seems to have its own plans.

MICROSOFT IS on the defensive. As the US government's massive anti-trust case trial went into recess last week, the company was battered and bruised, with its case looking more than shaky and with few friends in the media to defend it.

What had looked like a classic legal wrestling bout between giants has increasingly seemed a mismatch, as the company has been frequently routed. Its spin doctors continue blithely to deny this, but they are increasingly out of kilter with what is said and written.

Credibility has been at the core of its problems: repeatedly, Microsoft witnesses have lacked it. A demonstration of how its browser could not be disentangled from the Windows operating system proved to be flawed; James Allchin, a Microsoft vice-president, admitted that many of the benefits that the company claimed from integrating the two could equally well be obtained from simply buying both Windows 95 and Internet Explorer separately. David Rosen, another key witness, was simply dismissed by the US government's lawyers after his evidence had clearly contradicted the facts, other witnesses, or his own statements too many times.

The government contends that Microsoft had monopoly power, which the company denies. But its senior vice-president, Joachim Kempin, said last week that when he sets prices, he goes by the prices of other Microsoft products, not competitors' - a tacit admission that there is no competition. The government has set out how, through bargains, side deals, pressure and argument, Microsoft parlayed that into advantage in the market-place. The company claims that it is not its fault if its competitors are not so hot, that nothing it has done has been illegal, and that consumers benefit. But it is losing the argument.

So what now? In the short term, the case will reconvene in a month or so. But in the longer term, the industry and legal experts are starting to cast forward to the next steps: how the case ends, whether the appeal succeeds, and what may happen to Microsoft if it loses.

The company may be relying on its appeal fight, which will probably go first to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals later this year, and then to the US Supreme Court. If so, it should probably think again; few of the lawyers who have examined its case think it has a strong chance of getting its way there. What seems more likely is that the company may have to adapt to a new world in which it is forced either to license Windows to other users or split up.

Microsoft is already working on things that go beyond Windows 98. The first tantalising glimpse of what they could be came from John Dvorak, of PC magazine, last week. He presented a vision of Windows 2001, or "Neptune" as he says it is code-named. It looks uncannily like the product Microsoft is defending in court - something that genuinely melds the operating system with the browser - but it doesn't yet exist outside a company presentation which Dvorak says he was given anonymously.

Microsoft's aim, says Dvorak, quoting in-house documents, is to "create a more valuable consumer PC by removing complexity, adding relevancy, connecting it to everything, and making it easy to operate". It is a Web- centred system, with a task-focused approach that builds every function around a start page. Manufacturers can mould this entry point to their own machines. It is aimed at the general household user, the growing market that has boosted computer sales in the US as people take to the Net in droves.

The central contention that Microsoft made in selling Windows 98, and that it is fighting to defend in court, is that there is - already - no distinction between the operating system and the browser; they are a seamless unity. Windows 98 goes some way towards proving that for users, but only so far: there are still too many times when it is blindingly obvious that the two live in neighbouring but parallel universes.

However, the company has made it clear that this is the path it wants to go down. Why, for instance, did it not allow manufacturers to change Windows to separate off the browser and use others? "As you know, the browser is part of Windows," says Kempin. "We did not like people to butcher the Windows operating system... We design our products with a certain amount of pride and we are keen that they get presented to the user as we presented them." The government says the issue is control over the browser market; the company says it is about software, consumers and design. "The bottom line for Microsoft is protecting our ability to innovate and add new features for consumers," says a company spokesman, Mark Murray.

Though it is still early days, the conjunction of speculation about Microsoft's next software move and its corporate future after the trial is suggestive. As Dvorak points out, if Neptune is the future, then Microsoft still appears intent on, to put it mildly, leveraging the strength of its operating system into the Internet. It is also moving closer to integrating this with its forays on to the Web as a content provider. If his company is to be broken up or forced to license its operating system to all comers, Bill Gates may have to make some pretty abrupt changes of strategy.

Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star