NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Microsoft Corp. unveiled an expected restructuring Monday that will slice up the software company into four business divisions and a group devoted to consumer products.
Microsoft said the new structure will better address needs of its 4 major customer groups: information technology managers; knowledge workers, such as small-business people; developers and consumers.
The realignment will split up Microsoft into groups targeting each of those four: a business and enterprise division, a business productivity group, a developer group, and a consumer and commerce group.
At the same time, Microsoft set up a home and retail products division, outside of those four divisions, to focus on consumer-related products such as games and reference tools.
A new shape, as settlement looms
The timing of Microsoft's announcement, which has been expected for several weeks, comes a day before the software giant is set to try and fashion a settlement during a lull in its antitrust case brought by the Justice Department and 19 states.
The government claims Microsoft abused its monopoly power in Windows to seek a larger market share for its other products.
Microsoft Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Gates insisted there is no relation between the trial and the restructuring.
"It has nothing to do with any lawsuit," said Gates during a conference call with reporters and investors on Monday. "There is no relation whatsoever."
Many questions linger about whether a settlement is feasible. Gates refused to say whether he was optimistic a settlement would come to fruition, saying only that it would be "inappropriate to get into the specifics of whatever talks might be going on."
Gates said Microsoft would insist on two "pro-consumer principals" in any settlement -- reassurance for customers that Windows will work and that Microsoft will continue to be able to innovate.
"If those are preserved, it'd be nice if a settlement could be reached," Gates said, echoing his oft-repeated hope for a settlement.
New form to be imperceptible
The new structure, Gates said, is meant to inject "parallelism" into Microsoft "without having any bottlenecks in the organization."
The reorganization is expected to be imperceptible to consumers, Microsoft President Steve Ballmer said. "In the short term, I would be surprised if consumers saw any kind of immediate change."
"It is not designed to address a short-term issue, it's designed for the long run," Ballmer added.
One outcome of the trial -- considered by many analysts to be something of a long shot -- is that Microsoft could be split up into many companies. Ballmer rejected that prospect.
"There's certainly no breakup of the company into smaller companies that I would find very acceptable, and we're certainly not thinking about that as a possibility," he said.
Who's in the new line-up
The business and enterprise division, to be headed by Senior Vice President Jim Allchin, will be responsible for a Consumer Windows group, focusing on the dominant Windows operating system.
Senior Vice President Bob Muglia will head the business productivity unit; Vice President Paul Maritz will be in charge of the developer group; and vice presidents Brad Chase and Jon DeVaan will head the consumer and commerce group.
Meanwhile, Microsoft said Monday it will begin shipments of its Office 2000 software suite -- including such titles as Excel, Word and PowerPoint -- in early April, and retail sales are to begin June 10.
Shares of Microsoft (MSFT) closed up 3-5/16 to 92-3/8, leading an overall charge up for the technology sector.