OK, but Will He Make Microsoft Have Babies?

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Like so much else in the Microsoft antitrust case, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact both stated what many suspected and left crucial details until later. The findings: Microsoft is indeed a monopoly, possessing a stranglehold over the PC desktop. It has abused the power, and that abuse has harmed consumers. The findings so closely paralleled the government line that you might have thought they were actually written by lead DOJ attorney Joel Klein. But that just shows Judge Jackson was paying attention, says TIME's Chris Taylor: "He's shown in this ruling a real grasp of the technology, and that he really understands the government's case." But we're not out of court just yet: While all this seems to clearly spell out a-n-t-i-t-r-u-s-t, a decision as to what to do about it is still a few months off. The Justice Department, of course, immediately proclaimed victory, and said that while they weren't ready to talk specifics, they weren't ruling out anything as a possible remedy. Meanwhile, the boys from Redmond countered, reasonably, that the judge hasn't made any legal conclusions yet, so everyone should just hold off on those "whither Microsoft" pieces.

The markets, of course, weren't waiting for any legal decisions, and MSFT fell four points in after-hours trading. That's not much, considering, and it reflects the feeling among many traders that even if Microsoft were found guilty of antitrust, that might not be a bad thing. For instance, if the feds decided to split the company up, whether along product lines or by creating several equally endowed "Baby Microsofts," the combined value of the resultant stock would probably end up higher than the original. Other scenarios aren't so rosy: Bill Gates could be forced to give away the source code of his core product, Windows. Or the government could simply weaken the company with a lot of regulations — sort of a permanent peacekeeping mission in Redmond. But even that might not be so bad: As the company has spent the past few years under federal scrutiny, the software market has become even more competitive, while Microsoft, with $19.7 billion in sales this year, is still raking in the bucks. In the end, it very might well be that what doesn't kill Bill Gates will only make the tousle-haired billionaire stronger.