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BBC's David Willis in Seattle
Microsoft backed by executives from Compaq and Dreamworks
 real 28k

Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 05:44 GMT 06:44 UK
Microsoft attacks break-up plan
Microsoft logo
Appeals could extend the Microsoft case for years
Microsoft, the world's biggest software company, has presented a final rebuttal of a US Government plan to break it up over alleged violations of anti-trust law.

"The government's proposed final judgement is defective in numerous respects, making the document vague and ambiguous," Microsoft argued.

The Microsoft Trial
The US Department of Justice argues that Microsoft should be split into two parts to ensure greater competition.

It was the company's final submission to Judge Thomas Penfold Jackson before he rules on the software giant's fate. He has already said Microsoft acted illegally as a monopoly.

Microsoft has said it will appeal against any unfavourable decision - a move which could extend the landmark legal battle for months or years.

Support for Microsoft

In its submission on Wednesday, Microsoft offered testimony from top executives of other companies, including computer makers Compaq and film-makers Dreamworks, in support of its view that a break-up would harm the US economy.


Bill Gates
Microsoft's founder Bill Gates is one of the world's richest men
Under the government's plan, Microsoft would be split up into one company selling the Windows operating system, and another handling everything else including the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser at the heart of the anti-trust complaint.

The US Government charged, and the court accepted, that Microsoft forced its customers to adopt its own browser by discounts and pressure on computer makers, to the detriment of rival software maker Netscape.

During the hearing on remedies last week, the judge explored possible methods of breaking up the firm, including a three-way split. In the end, he instead asked the US Government to provide him a "clean copy" of its proposed remedy.

Judge Penfield Jackson's final ruling is now imminent.

Definitions


Government plan
Microsoft to split into two companies
One to sell Windows operating systems
The other to sell hardware, software, internet services
No re-merger for 10 years
Business restrictions while appeal in progress

In its objections to the government plan, Microsoft said there "must be a definition of the term 'Internet browser'".

"At the moment there is no indication of what the government is referring to," it added.

Microsoft also said the plan to break up the company should be called a "divestiture," and not a "reorganisation."

The company had asked the judge for six months to call more witnesses from elsewhere in the computer industry to testify on the negative effects it believes would follow. But the judge gave Microsoft just two days.

With the final ruling imminent, Microsoft has cancelled plans to launch new software which would provide internet access for any kind of computing device, including cell phones and hand-held personal organisers.

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See also:

18 May 00 | Business
Microsoft break up defended
14 Feb 00 | Microsoft
Microsoft: The charge sheet
04 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft vows to fight on
04 Apr 00 | Business
Analysis: Ruling a distraction
11 Apr 00 | Business
Microsoft on Bush offensive
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