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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK

Business: The Company File

Lawyers 'may push for Microsoft break-up'

Windows software may be hived off from other Microsoft products

Splitting Microsoft into two companies is one of the options being looked at by US government lawyers if they win their anti-trust lawsuit against the software giant, it is reported.

Lawyers for the Justice Department and 19 US states have been in discussions over ways to limit Microsoft's market power, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The US Justice Department accuses Microsoft of acting unlawfully to wipe out competition in the personal computer operating systems market.

It says the producers of the Windows operating system is illegally using monopoly power to crush potential rivals.

Ruling due soon

Microsoft maintains that the US Government has failed to prove its claims and that there is no evidence that its actions have hurt consumers.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is expected to give his ruling on the trial, which began last October, next month.

The Financial Times said the Justice Department's break-up option, were it to win the case, would involve Microsoft being divided into two separate and competing companies.

One would control Windows, while the other sold applications products such as the Microsoft Office business software packages.

There is still the possibility of an out-of-court settlement, and both sides have met several times since the trial began.

However, most observers think it is unlikely the two sides will be able to come to an agreement.

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