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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Microsoft to meet with US Justice Department
Microsoft logo
Microsoft officials have headed to Washington in the hopes of reaching an agreement with federal and state officials in the government's antitrust case.

Microsoft executives will meet with US Department of Justice (DOJ) officials and representatives of 18 states' attorneys general, Reuters news agency reported on Monday.

A specific day was not named and some analysts give the talks little hope of reaching an agreement.

Those close to the case say expectations for success are low, given Microsoft's focus on new litigation, and the Justice Department's planning for a return to court, according to a report in Monday editions of the Wall Street Journal.

Quick ruling sought

Microsoft told a federal appeals court in a filing late on Friday it opposed a recent call from the federal government for a quick ruling on its anti-trust case.

The world's No. 1 software company is seeking to have the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia review last month's ruling that said the company violated anti-trust laws.

If [Microsoft] can delay until after their release of XP, they're golden

Goldman Sachs analyst Henry Blodget

In its filing, Microsoft asked the court to not immediately send the government's case back to US District the Court, as the DOJ requested last week.

"This filing asks for an appropriate and limited period for the company to address any legal issues related to the Court of Appeals ruling," said Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma.

Stalling technique

Some legal experts say that Microsoft is simply buying time, hoping to delay any final decision on the case until after it releases it latest version of its Windows operating software, dubbed Windows XP.

Prior to Friday's request, Microsoft asked the appeals court to re-examine its ruling against the company, which said it illegally "commingled" the computer code of its Windows and its Internet Explorer internet-browser software.

"If [Microsoft] can delay until after their release of XP, they're golden," said Merrill Lynch analyst Harry Blodget.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates
Gates: anti-trust saga reaches endgame

Following the June ruling by the appeals court, Microsoft claimed victory after the justices threw out a decision to have the company split in two.

Win? Lose? Draw?

But critics have accused Microsoft of a U-turn with its latest move, given that it is asking the District Court to review the ruling that it had previously hailed.

The Microsoft spokesman called the criticism invalid and said the company remained "committed to working with the government to try and resolve the remaining issue in this case through settlement".

Depending on the outcome of the review, Microsoft may take the case to the US Supreme Court, even though the government believes that there is little probability that the High Court would act.

"It strikes me as unlikely that the Supreme Court would find this a timely or appropriate place for intervention," said former Federal Trade Commission official Bill Baer.

He added, however, that "it's certainly not unusual for a defendant to want preserve every option".

In making its determination on 28 June, the federal appeals court sent the case back to US District Court in Washington for further consideration by a different judge, a process that would not start until mid-August.

June ruling

The DOJ, however, last week asked the appeals court to expedite the Microsoft anti-trust case back to a lower court and said it would not seek a review from the Supreme Court at this stage.

In doing so, the federal government was seeking to speed up the process, a scheme that 18 states have also backed.

"Delay in imposing an effective remedy inflicts substantial and widespread consumer injury and needlessly prolongs uncertainty in the computer industry," DOJ argued in submitting its request to the court.

The states hope to ensure that whatever settlement or result comes from their legal initiative, it will result in fundamental change in the way the company does business.

One remedy offered up includes requirements that ensure other software programmes run efficiently on Microsoft's Windows platform.

That, they say, would help rivals develop compatible programmes and spur innovation and competition.

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See also:

13 Jul 01 | Business
US seeks quick end to Microsoft case
19 Jul 01 | Business
Microsoft asks for court review
13 Jul 01 | Business
New Mexico breaks ranks on Microsoft
12 Jul 01 | Business
Microsoft in Windows climbdown
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