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WTC attack delays MS case another week

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The deadline for Microsoft and the government to file a joint status report with the District Court has been extended to this Thursday, in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center. According to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the extension is at the request of both parties; Microsoft lawyers Sullivan & Cromwell has offices near the WTC, and was forced to evacuate them temporarily.

After the filing of the report, the next stage in the case will be a hearing on 28th September. This itself had previously been scheduled for this Friday.

The most recent delay is unlikely to make much difference to the case, because although there remains a possibility that there will be an attempt to block the release of Windows XP in October, that has seemed a slight one for some weeks now. The Department of Justice is however pressing for consideration of Microsoft's behaviour since the trial, and if this is granted XP will no doubt figure.

If the DoJ can secure the early implementation of remedies (a big if) then Microsoft could again find itself ordered to change a shipping product - as was the case with Windows 95, until Judge Jackson's preliminary injunction was overturned.

Consumer uncertainty caused by the WTC attack may itself mute the impact of XP. Microsoft has been painting the new OS as the product that will revive the PC industry and some PC manufacturers have expressed a certain desperate support for this improbable proposition. But in times of war, people save, and if these either are times of war or people think they are, XP and Xbox goldrushes are unlikely to happen.

Microsoft does however have corporate sales as a backstop, and in reality this was always going to be a bigger source of XP revenues than the consumer sector. The licence changes the company announced in May were clearly designed to produce a big sales spike for XP, because although they'll (as always) cost businesses more in the long run, the new Ts & Cs were specifically designed to cost businesses who don't jump early even more in the long run.

In response to sounds of squeaking pips from its loyal customers Microsoft put back the deadline date until February, but a recent Gartner report indicates that for most people this extension is illusory.

As Gartner points out, it'll still be cheaper for many enterprise to terminate their current agreements and switch to the new Upgrade Advantage licence by 30th September. Which means, short of large numbers of them deciding to junk their Microsoft systems, the WinXP launch sales spike will still happen. ®

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