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The Software Industry After the Settlement

July 19, 1994|Researched by ADAM S. BAUMAN / Los Angeles Times

Saturday's settlement of the Microsoft antitrust case, under which the software power agreed to alter some business practices, is not expected to have a dramatic impact on the software business in the short term. But even if Microsoft retains dominance in desktop PC software, it may have trouble extending its success to a number of new, fast-growing markets.

Desktop: Microsoft DOS and Windows have more than 80% of the market for PC operating systems, which control basic computer functions. New Windows release--Chicago--likely to solidify Microsoft's dominance. Apple, with the Macintosh, has not succeeded in breaking out of a narrow niche, despite superior technology. Novell's DR-DOS, a competitors to MS-DOS, could be aided by the settlement, but still viewed as a minor player. In mainstream "applications" such as word processors and spreadsheets, Microsoft gaining ground, but Lotus Development (1-2-3 spreadsheet) and Novell (Wordperfect word processor) still strong. Main battleground now in consumer applications, including education and personal finance software. Incumbents such as Broderbund and Intuit--and many small companies developing CD-ROM software--face tough challenge from Microsoft.

High-end Corporate Server Market: Microsoft trying to crack the IBM-dominated corporate computing world with Windows NT, advanced operating system for corporate computing and controlling networks of PCs. Sales disappointing thus far, but company has high hopes for new release, dubbed Daytona. Big Blue still pushing OS/2 as a high-end operating system for corporate PCs, and offers a range of specialized software for its large mainframes and minicomputer systems. Novell attacking here with new versions of Unix. Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, DEC, and Silicon Graphics have highly regarded server hardware, and mostly support some version of Unix along with proprietary software. All have high hopes for emerging "video server" business as well, where Microsoft is pushing PC-based Tiger system. Oracle, a database software company, also a player in video servers.

Networking: Microsoft hopes NT will be its answer for linking PCs, but faces an uphill battle against entrenched Novell Netware. Lotus's Notes product has defined a new category, groupware, for software that makes it easy to collaborate across networks--Microsoft yet to come up with a reposte.

Hand-held Computing: Microsoft hopes to set standard with WinPad software for pocket-sized, pen-operated computers. But Apple's Newton, though widely criticized, has thus far defined the category. AT&T a big player here thorough acquisition of Eo and Go. Market slow to develop.

Interactive TV: Battle for "set-top box", computerized device that will control consumer access to interactive TV networks, has just begun. Microsoft's Modular Windows considered an inadequate solution, but company is working with Intel, General Instruments and others to build something better. Silicon Graphics developing set-top software for Time Warner cable trial. Apple/IBM joint venture, Kaleida Labs, and game company 3DO also aspire to set standard on the set-top. Cable TV and other media companies have key role in selecting technology, many are suspicious of Microsoft.

On-line Information Services: Microsoft plans to launch its own online service in competition with America Online, Prodigy, Compuserve and others. Will also attempt to provide much of its own "content,"--news and other information, games, educational services. Every major media conglomerate and thousands of small companies have big plans here.

Source: Windows Watcher newsletter; Dataquest; wire and company reports.

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