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The BBC's Helen Sawyer
"The decision has dashed any hope of a negotiated settlement"
 real 28k

The BBC's Tom Carver
"It's widely believed that the findings will go against Microsoft"
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banner Sunday, 2 April, 2000, 00:32 GMT 01:32 UK
Microsoft talks break up

The judge mediating in the Microsoft antitrust case has announced that he has ended his efforts to settle the case.

The Microsoft Trial
The company is accused of illegally trying to dominate the market for web browsers with its Internet Explorer software.

A decision was delayed last week to allow the two sides to negotiate but Saturday's failure means a verdict is likely to be delivered in the next few days.

Once a verdict is issued, additional hearings will be held to determine what kind of sanctions to impose.

Microsoft is likely to appeal against any decision, possibly tying up the case for several years.

Announcing the end of his attempts at mediation, US Court of Appeals Chief Judge Richard Posner said that "the quest has proved fruitless," adding that the differences between the two sides "were too deep-seated to be bridged".

Last week, District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson had said he was ready to issue a verdict and would do so on Tuesday unless there was progress in settlement talks.

Judge's options
Break-up - Split into three firms selling operating systems, applications and internet content respectively
Open source code - Competitors could add or modify Windows to use their own software
Fair pricing - Bar on discounts to firms which exclusively use its software
Baby Bills - Create several identical versions of Microsoft
But he also approved a new mediation schedule that was due to allow talks to continue until 7 April.

Negotiations had been continuing between the firm and the US Government, along with the 19 states that brought the anti-trust suit.

Detailed proposal

Microsoft sent a detailed settlement proposal of almost a dozen pages to government lawyers late last week.

In the proposal, Microsoft agreed to:

  • Sell a version of Windows that does not have its web browser, Internet Explorer, integrated with the operating system.
  • Charge a standard, uniform price for Windows.
  • Open access to other software makers of more of the code of Windows, also called application program interfaces or APIs.
  • Apply the settlement not only to consumer versions of Windows, such as Windows 95 and 98, but also to its corporate operating system, previously known as Windows NT but now named Windows 2000.

Many government officials deemed the proposal inadequate, but they wanted time to evaluate not only the concessions that Microsoft had offered but also 14 conditions and detailed technical exceptions included in the proposal.

Mistrust of Microsoft

The government wanted to review carefully the complex conditions that Microsoft has laid out in the new proposed agreement to avoid ambiguity.

It also wanted to include clear enforcement language in the agreement.

Talks were being made more difficult by dissent amongst the 19 states involved in the case.

Some were satisfied with the conduct-based remedies - or actions Microsoft must take - contained in the proposed settlement, while others were pressing for Microsoft to be broken up.

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See also:

22 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Judge hints at Microsoft break-up
22 Feb 00 | Microsoft
What's it all about?
14 Feb 00 | Microsoft
The Trial: Key Moments
09 Feb 00 | Business
EU probes Windows
31 Jan 00 | Business
Gates: No Microsoft media merger
14 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Microsoft: The charge sheet
18 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Split may help Microsoft
14 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Timeline of the legal battle
17 Feb 00 | Business
Windows 2000: Special report
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