Microsoft will soon respond to the Department of Justice (DOJ) demand that Microsoft be broken up as punishment for its antitrust offences.

However, many of the proposed restrictions drew negative reactions from IT managers concerned about Microsoft's ability to add functionality to its operating systems.

The department proposed that Microsoft be required to disclose APIs (Application Program Interface) and other code it uses to let its middle-ware products (software that enables programs to communicate with each other) interoperate with Windows. Microsoft would also be barred from throwing up impediments that block other middle-ware products from working with Windows.

Unhappy Although Microsoft's competitors may cheer such a move, the company's customers may not share their enthusiasm. Eric Kuzmack, systems architect at Maryland-based Gannett, a Windows NT and Office shop, said Microsoft's hands should not be tied when it comes to improving its products.

"Having a choice between competitors is important," said Kusmack, a member of InfoWorld's Corporate Advisory Board. "But if Microsoft puts some feature in its operating system that removes for me the need to purchase a third product, as long as it works and is stable and does what I need it to do, that helps me."

Unsure It is unclear what effect government-imposed restrictions would have on Microsoft's big Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), a project so important to the company that chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates is overseeing its development.

One source described NGWS as "a completely Internetized Windows" that will seek to be a platform for Internet services. NGWS will be built on COM+ 2.0, which has yet to enter beta, the developer said.

A restriction from adding middle-ware to Windows 2000 would wipe out a huge advantage Microsoft enjoys with its Component Object Model (COM), and its successor, COM+, over competing technologies such as Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB), one analyst said.

Set back "If the Justice Department prevails, COM+ - which includes not only a middle-ware component model, but also a transaction processing engine, an http server, and a COM application server - is about to get deconstructed," said Paul Harmon, a consultant at Cutter Information, in Massachusetts.

Microsoft must respond to the department's remedies proposal by May 10, the central core of which was a proposal to divide Microsoft into two companies, one that builds Windows and one that handles the rest of its products.

Microsoft will file a request for time to formulate a more detailed response in the antitrust case, Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said. Microsoft is compelled to seek more information to formulate a defence against the complex proposal because of "the size of the case", Cullinan said.

No debate Microsoft will reportedly ask US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to consider throwing out the government's plan, saying that the Justice Department relied on evidence to draw up the remedies that was not used in the antitrust trial. One source said that Microsoft was particularly upset to learn the department has claimed the software giant tried to sabotage the way Palm synchronization software interoperates with Windows, a point not debated at trial.

Jackson scheduled remedies hearings for May 24, but that date could be postponed if Microsoft succeeds in obtaining a delay.