Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates said he is confident that his company will prevail in its appeal against a US District Court ruling yesterday that the software maker be split into two parts.
"I'm reminded of the old saying that today is the first day of the rest of your life" Gates said, speaking at a press conference at the company's headquarters yesterday afternoon. "I believe today is the first day of the rest of this case," Microsoft will appeal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's order in the next day or two, and will also seek a stay -- or delay -- in the implementation of the order pending the conclusion of the appeals process, Microsoft officials said.
In a speech that recalled the company's 25-year history, Gates repeated an assertion he has made throughout the case, that Microsoft has benefited consumers by helping to make PCs accessible to millions, and has stimulated competition in the software industry -- not crushed it, as Judge Jackson has concluded.
"We're confident that the courts will overturn what's happened at the district level, and as the legal team works to overturn this, we're going to focus our energy on building great software for our customers," Gates said.
Microsoft has several reasons to be confident that its appeal will be successful, he said.
Yesterday's ruling is "inconsistent" with a 1998 appeals court decision which said that Judge Jackson had misinterpreted Microsoft's bundling of its Internet browser software with its Windows operating system, Gates said. The issue of whether Microsoft illegally "tied" its Internet Explorer software to Windows has been a central component of the Government's case.
In addition, the decision to break up Microsoft was made too hastily, and didn't provide Microsoft with an adequate opportunity to submit arguments against the order, Gates said. The court's decision also sets a new and unnerving precedent of Government intervention in the software market, he said.
"We have strong legal, factual and procedural arguments," Gates said.
In his order released yesterday, Judge Jackson criticised Microsoft for its suggestion that the breakup proposal submitted by the US Department of Justice took the vendor by surprise.
"From the inception of this case Microsoft knew, from well-established Supreme Court precedents dating from the beginning of the last century, that a mandated divestiture was a possibility, if not a probability, in the event of an adverse result at trial," Jackson wrote in yesterday's order.