With a guilty verdict and final ruling behind it, Microsoft Corporation has agreed to a request made by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that the two sides meet once again at the settlement table and try to work out a deal that would end this historic antitrust trial. DOJ Antitrust chief Joel Klein said earlier this week that he was "prepared to engage in meaningful settlement negotiations" with Microsoft if the company was still interested. A previous attempt at settling the case failed when the two sides couldn't reach an agreement.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in Europe for a biannual meeting with key European customers, says that the talks are welcome. "We would still love that opportunity," Ballmer said Thursday. "We would love to settle this case. We were unable to in the last round discussion. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time."
In the event that settlement talks don't bear fruit, however, the company is launching a massive attack against the government's attempt to break it up. Microsoft immediately filed for a stay of Judge Jackson's ruling, and the company is unleashing a series of advertisements that will take its case to the people. In a TV spot that will begin airing this week, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates discusses future technologies that the company is developing, technology that he says will never see the light of day if Microsoft is broken up. "The next generation of software is being developed right here," Gates says. "It will understand your voice, anticipate your needs, protect your privacy and connect you to the Internet wherever you are. It will help your children learn and give businesses new tools to succeed in the coming digital world. We've been writing great software for the past 25 years. It's what we're all about. It's our passion and it will always be. The best is yet to come." Print advertisements featuring an open letter from the company appeared Friday in major U.S. newspapers.
On a somewhat related note, Bill Gates revealed a more human side this week during a scholarship reception for minority students in Seattle. Gates, who was on hand to dole out the first scholarships in a 20-year, $1 billion program, became teary-eyed and choked up when a student broke down in tears and thanked him and his wife for the gift. "Being here, meeting the kids last night at dinner, hearing about their dreams, it's a very..." Gates said, choking with emotion. "...exciting thing to have become reality," he finally continued. Whether the moment was spontaneous, of course, is infinitely debatable, but the people present at the event and dinner were surprised to discover a softer side to Gates. Hopefully he can show this side to the DOJ as well, and get this antitrust mess behind him, the company, and its shareholders