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Table: AOL's Legal Gamble


By suing Microsoft on antitrust grounds, AOL Time Warner piggybacks on top of the government case against the software giant. But there are risks for AOL, too.

REWARDS:

MONETARY DAMAGES

AOL (AOL) could win billions of dollars in damages, according to legal experts.

STRIPPED-DOWN WINDOWS

A ruling in AOL's favor could force Microsoft to offer an operating system without its Internet Explorer browser and other applications AOL competes with.

A HARRIED MICROSOFT

Another legal battle could distract the software giant when it's trying to launch new initiatives in Web services and the connected electronic home.

RISKS:

INVITING ANTITRUST SCRUTINY

AOL may be faced with counterclaims by Microsoft that its online service unfairly monopolizes businesses such as instant messaging. AOL dominates that market and refuses to make its service compatible with other services.

GETTING IN MICROSOFT'S CROSSHAIRS

In the past, Microsoft (MSFT) has vanquished foes such as Lotus, Borland, WordPerfect, and Netscape. Now that AOL has essentially declared war, Microsoft may marshal its forces to beat AOL.


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