Microsoft break up may lead to incompatibility problems

19 Jan 2000 View Comments
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A decision by the US Department of Justise (DoJ) to break up Microsoft could lead to confusion for users and the proliferation of incompatible software, experts have warned. Rumours surfaced last week that the DoJ has held a number of secret meetings in Washington to consider different scenarios for breaking up the software giant.

One option could be to split Microsoft down the middle, creating separate companies for operating systems and applications. Weight was added to the rumours when the DoJ disclosed that it has hired financial consultant Greenhill & Co as an adviser. The DoJ has refuted claims that it is considering a break-up, but Department insiders say such a move is definitely on the cards.

Analysts however are divided over the possible technological implications splitting the company into separate operations could have on users.

Richard Doherty, from market research company Envisioneering, said that breaking up the company would lead to possible incompatibility issues.

"Within two to three years, the operating systems probably will diverge and become incompatible," he said.

Michael Cusumano, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, said that dividing the company into pieces would be "stupid, because it just creates confusion in the marketplace".

Microsoft - which last week promoted Steve Ballmer to CEO - said it was "too premature" to comment on any issues surrounding the trial.

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