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banner Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 02:29 GMT 03:29 UK
Analysis: Ruling a distraction
Bill Gates discusses the case
Bill Gates said he would appeal
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

The Microsoft Trial
Despite a plunge in Microsoft's share price, Monday's ruling will have little effect on the company in the short term. However, the case will prove a distraction during a critical period of change and could spawn other lawsuits, industry analysts said after the judge announced his decision.

"As momentous as this ruling is, we all knew this was coming," Charles Rutstein, of IT consultancy Forrester Research, said.

Market traders scarmble on the trading floor
Microsoft shares were down all day
He said it would have little effect on Microsoft's day-to-day operation.

"We are still talking about a company with a monopoly operating system, and in almost any vision of the future, that will continue," he said.

Dan Kusnetzky, operating system analyst for International Data Corporation (IDC), agreed: "My first sense is that it is probably not going to change much for Microsoft and its partners."

But in the long-term, things become less certain.

Current Microsoft customers might find some products unavailable in the future, and "the check might be to someone else and the amount might be a little different", Mr Kusnetzky said.

Post-PC challenge

While Microsoft enjoys a monopoly on desktop computers, the so-called Post-PC era is reshaping the market.

Samsung's multimedia phone
Microsoft does not dominate in software for mobile phones and other smart devices

Mr Kusnetzky predicted that sales of information appliances - from stripped down terminals used primarily to access to the internet, to smart mobile phones and handheld computers such as the Palm Pilot - would outpace PC sales by 2004.

IDC says this market could mushroom to $17.9bn in four years.

"Microsoft is strong on the desktop, but they don't own the server space. They don't own the living room, the automobile [or] the handheld," Michael Gartenberg, lead Microsoft analyst for IT consultancy The Gartner Group, said.

"All these things will radically change the marketplace in the next few years," he said.

The case and others sure to follow will prove a definite distraction for Microsoft as it tries to remain a nimble competitor in this fast-changing marketplace, analysts agreed.

The judge's ruling could set off a new round of civil suits against Microsoft, which already faces more than 100 such cases.

"I expect a flurry of class action lawsuits in US, Canada, and in every European country," Mr Kusnetzky said.

"It is guaranteed that Microsoft will spend a lot of time and energy defending itself against these."

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See also:

03 Apr 00 | Microsoft
Microsoft: Text of the verdict
04 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft vows to fight on
03 Apr 00 | Business
US v Microsoft: The spin begins
03 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft: Ruling not the end
04 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft: No longer the biggest
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