Will Microsoft Ever Settle?

When the federal judge in the Microsoft antitrust trial appointed Chief Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois, to mediate talks aimed at resolving the case, many experts were caught by surprise.

By naming a mediator, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson sent the subtle but clear signal that he expects the government and Microsoft to reach a quick settlement.

However, I believe that Judge Jackson was also extending an olive branch to Bill Gates and Co. In his many books and articles, the 60 year-old Judge Posner has expressed much doubt about the government’s traditional antitrust enforcement and has expressed deep skepticism of the breaking up of companies that violate the Sherman Antitrust act.

Opportunity For Microsoft

In a way, by inserting Posner as a mediator, Judge Jackson has cut Bill Gates and Co. a major break, even though the recent ruling declaring Microsoft a monopoly has no doubt ruffled the feathers of the world’s richest man.

Nonetheless, Judge Jackson’s olive branch could be quickly trampled on if Microsoft continues to obstinately follow its hard line strategy of denying any wrongdoing and digging in for a long fight.

Both Sides Far Apart

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that both sides are still light years apart on how they view the case.

The government claims that Judge Jackson’s findings of Microsoft’s predatory actions must be remedied with tough action that will restore competition to the marketplace, while Microsoft claims it wants to settle, but is unwilling to give even an inch. vSo, it seems that Judge Jackson is calling both sides’ bluff. If all the concerned parties are truly sincere about resolving the case, it can certainly be done with the help of someone with the experience of Judge Posner. The 1962 graduate of Harvard Law School clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and was a professor at the University of Chicago for 12 years.

He is also known for his fairness and is considered a tough-minded jurist by his colleagues – a quality that Bill Gates can certainly identify with.

Going Out On A Limb

While many pundits are betting that Microsoft is hunkering down for a long, bitter battle, I have spoken with experts who say that many Microsoft employees and stockholders are pushing hard to get this case behind the company.

Some even claim that Bill Gates’ recent public demeanor shows that the multi-billionaire’s confidence has been badly shaken.

So, I am going to go out on a limb and make a prediction about the case of the century: Look for it to be settled very shortly, with both sides getting some of what they wanted.

I predict that in the end, this settlement will prove that even Bill Gates is not powerful enough to shake his fist at the government and get away with it.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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