Humbled Microsoft CEO Says Antitrust Case Changed Company

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that he was personally humbled by his experiences during Microsoft's epic antitrust struggle, and that the company has changed and grown as a result. Ballmer, who was in Washington for meetings on Capitol Hill this week, also said that Microsoft was "super-focused" on complying with the requirements of the ruling against the company, which is made up largely of the same terms the company agreed to its in proposed settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) a year earlier. Microsoft had already started complying with that agreement beginning with the release of Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) back in August, Ballmer notes.

"There is no question that when the antitrust lawsuit started, most of our industry did not race to support us," Ballmer said. "We learned that we needed to take a different perspective on being a good industry leader." Indeed, most of the PC industry rallied against Microsoft or kept silent out of fear of Microsoft reprisals. Few companies supported the software giant during its lengthy legal battle.

But times change, and Ballmer now says that Microsoft is serious about being a better partner. "Even five years ago \[just before the federal suit was launched\], we still tended to think of ourselves as a small company that was just getting started," Ballmer said. "Today, we recognize that we are an important industry leader whose decisions have an impact on many other companies as well." Some things, however, remain the same. In addition to continuing its dominance of the PC industry, Microsoft will continue to spend record sums on research and development, paving the way for a future dominated, yet again, by Microsoft software. Ballmer said that the company's 2003 budget for R&D is $5 billion, about 15 percent more than it spent in 2002.

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