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MS not confident of final victory after all, says SEC filing

Not quite what Steve Ballmer's been telling us

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MS on Trial Since the judge delivered his verdict, Microsoft's top executives have stoutly maintained that the company is innocent, will be vindicated, and will not change its business practices. There is no plan B, official.

As we've pointed out here several times, if this is a true statement of Microsoft's policy, it's positively reckless. The split in the company and numerous other measures imposed by Judge Jackson would make it absolutely impossible for Microsoft to carry on developing software the way it always has, so Microsoft's insistence that it has no contingency plan makes it sound like it's betting the whole company on having practically all of Jackson's measures stayed before they can kick in.

Microsoft is also incidentally likely to get itself in hot water with the judge if it hasn't started preparing plans to split the company, like he told it to - sounds a bit like not taking IE back out of Windows, even thogh he'd told Microsoft to do that, a couple of years back.

Then of course the judge was overturned on appeal, so maybe there's some justification for the execs' apparent confidence. But there are some places where you have to leave your PR spin at the door - your Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, for example.

On Friday a Microsoft SEC filing warned that the company stock could be materially damaged if it failed to get sufficient legal relief through a stay of Jackson's order, or through a successful appeal.

Microsoft says it expects to get relief from some, maybe even all, of Jackson's provisions, but that it is "unable to predict when or to what extent the relief will be obtained."

So although it's already asked the court of appeal for a stay, it doesn't know how much of Jackson's burden will be removed from it, and it doesn't know when either. So what it's telling the SEC's Father O'Leary in the confessional is radically different from what Steve Ballmer is telling reporters every time he opens his mouth - Microsoft is not 100 per cent confident in victory, and is not sure that all of the measures will be removed, either at this stage in the court of appeal, or further down the line.

So about that plan B again, Steve...®

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