- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Lengthy court battles and antitrust allegations forced the world's largest software maker to re-evaluate its role as one of the top technology companies, Microsoft's chief executive said yesterday.
In the first public remarks from Microsoft since immediately after a judge approved an antitrust settlement with the Department of Justice and nine states two weeks ago, Steve Ballmer said the company has learned to "take a different perspective on being a good industry leader."
"Even five years ago, we still tended to think of ourselves as a small company that was just getting started," Mr. Ballmer said in an address at the Brookings Institution. "Today, we recognize that we are an important industry leader whose decisions have an impact on many other companies as well."
During the four-year court case, critics of Microsoft argued that the company illegally fended off competition to build and grow its software monopoly, particularly with features of its Windows operating system, which is used in about 95 percent of personal computers. The settlement requires Microsoft to give computer makers identical contract terms for licensing Windows. Certain rules also allow computer makers to promote Microsoft competitors more easily.
Mr. Ballmer, who said Microsoft was "super-focused on 100 percent compliance with the settlement" indicated changes to the company would not affect its ability to produce new software and technologies. The company will spend about $5 billion on research and development this year, up 15 percent over 2001.
"Despite two decades of remarkable growth for the computing industry, we believe we are just at the beginning of what is possible for technology," Mr. Ballmer said.
Key future advancements include better voice-recognition software, better notebook-size computers, like the Tablet PC that Microsoft introduced last week, and further development of computer languages such as XML.
But Mr. Ballmer cautioned that the advancement of technology has brought on new problems, citing concerns over identity theft, Internet security and spam. Many recent computer worms and viruses have spread quickly by exploiting weaknesses in Microsoft server software.
"With PCs now in over 60 percent of homes in this country, these challenges have assumed a broad social dimension that is very different from the issues our industry confronted in its infancy," Mr. Ballmer said. "Technology will take us so far but this is out of control."
Despite having battled the government over the last several years, Mr. Ballmer said government-industry partnerships have become more necessary to fight technology-related problems.
He called for the government to "fill the gaps" by doing what companies can't do on their own, such as finding and convicting malicious hackers and other cyber-criminals.
"We realize there are issues that need more public and private cooperation," Mr. Ballmer said.
"Working in a partnership, we can restore the integrity of the Internet."

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