Windows administrators will probably see little or no impact from a federal judge's approval of the antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the Department of Justice.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a ruling that rejected tougher penalties proposed by nine states and the District of Columbia.
Microsoft does have to issue some technical information to its competitors earlier than it was required to previously. But customers and analysts said that they doubt Microsoft will change the way it does business.
"I see no change," said Paul Edwards, a Windows administrator at Cendant Corp., a New York-based company that owns businesses in the travel, real estate and financial services industries. "The biggest impact of any decision is the licensing issue, and I'd be surprised if anyone said otherwise."
But customers might see some limited expansion of choice in terms of products that vendors previously wouldn't have had the nerve to offer. Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm, said that he believes some OEMs might be more willing to challenge Microsoft on certain points.
For example, Dell Computer Corp. is shipping PCs without Windows loaded. Rosoff said that Dell probably would not have dared to do that five years ago. "This is the main effect of the decision," Rosoff said. He also thinks that the settlement may lead to some competing server applications that work better with desktop
Other consultants agreed that it's doubtful customers will see any change based on the decision. "Microsoft will continue to exist and flourish no matter how you count the beans," said Larry Duncan, a Nashville, Tenn.-based systems management consultant.
One group that will see some benefit is software developers, because one condition of the decision is that Microsoft must release API information earlier than before. Jonathan Schafer, an architect at Brierley & Partners, a Dallas software vendor, said that his company will be better able to sell products that match the look and feel of Microsoft's applications.
Matthew A. DeBellis contributed to this story.