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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 21:52 GMT
Microsoft 'may accept restrictions'

Microsoft logos with Justice Department scales on it
Could there be a settlement after all?

Microsoft is reported to be softening its opposition to having restrictions placed on its future conduct by US competition authorities.

But the software superpower, which is facing the possibility of being broken up into separate companies, still maintains that it has not broken American anti-trust (monopoly) rules.

The Microsoft Trial
The reports that it may accept some curbs - in the Wall Street Journal - comes ahead of the resumption of the long running court case next Tuesday.

The world's largest company is said by the US Department of Justice to have broken anti-trust rules by abusing its dominance in the market for personal computer operating systems.

Last November the trial judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said in his preliminary findings of facts that Microsoft had behaved in a monopolistic fashion.

A mediator, Judge Richard Posner, was appointed in an effort to reach an out of court settlement of the case.

But so far no agreement has been reached, with the two sides heading back to court on Tuesday to give their arguments on whether any anti-trust laws were broken.

One of the options open to the Judge is to break Microsoft up, as has been done in the past in the US to Standard Oil and AT&T, who both had very dominant shares of their respective markets.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft has rejected plans to break-up the software giant.

Hearings delay?

The report quoted Microsoft as saying that a break-up would be "extreme and unwarranted ... a regulatory death sentence while the high-tech economy whizzes by on internet time."

But the company signalled that it would accept "common sense" restrictions on its conduct to settle the government's antitrust claims, the Journal said.

If true, that suggests a shift in Microsoft's position, which in the past has been that it was not a monopoly and should not be subject to any restrictions.

The prospect of progress being made in the talks being held in Chicago may lead to the closing arguments scheduled for 22 February being pushed back.

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Business
Countdown to Windows 2000
19 Nov 99 |  Business
Microsoft trial mediator welcomed
06 Nov 99 |  The Company File
US Government hails monopoly ruling
06 Nov 99 |  The Company File
How much will it hurt Microsoft?

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