5 March 2002 Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has threatened to withdraw the Windows operating system if a federal court approves anti-trust remedies proposed by a group of US states. Ballmer claims that its proposals might make it impossible to sell.
Ballmer made the claim during a deposition given in early February, but released publicly this week by Microsoft under a court order. Ballmer was responding to demands from a handful of US states that want Microsoft to sell a ‘no-frills’ version of Windows that would not compete with other software vendor’s products. According to Ballmer, “the only way to comply effectively [to the states demands] is to remove the product from the market”.
The case against Microsoft is being pursued by nine US states that did not agree to an anti-trust settlement made between the US Department of Justice and nine other states in November 2001.
The rebel states, which include California, Connecticut and Iowa, have recommended that Microsoft remove applications, such as Internet browsers and media players, that have been bundled freely with the Windows operating system. This would enable independent software vendors to be able to compete more fairly against the software giant, they say.
However, in his deposition, Ballmer claims that Microsoft would have to develop between 4,000 and 8,000 different versions of Windows, each for a specific type of customer, to comply with the proposal. The cost of designing, testing, and managing this number of products would make the business unprofitable, he said.
But Ballmer’s claims have been dismissed as “overblown rhetoric and apocalyptic predictions” by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. However, the Microsoft chief’s words have effected a recent amendment in the non-settling states demands.
Yesterday, the nine states submitted an amendment that specifically asks Microsoft to create a “single, uncommingled version of its operating system” that would enable the company to sell Windows without additional products.