Microsoft tries to settle

By Patrick Thibodeau, InfoWorld |  Business

MICROSOFT last week lobbied members of Congress during its antitrust settlement talks in an effort to stave off a corporate breakup order, arguing that a breakup would be harmful to consumers.

Reiterating its position that a settlement is the best possible outcome, Microsoft believes that "a common-sense settlement" to its antitrust case should be possible, and that a breakup would be the equivalent of a "regulatory death sentence."

In an e-mail message sent to members of the U.S. Congress, Microsoft made what amounts to an appeal for help as the case winds rapidly to a close.

Both sides are due in court Tuesday this week to make their final arguments before Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issues his "conclusions of law," or verdict.

Microsoft, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys, and representatives of the 19 states involved in this landmark antitrust case have been meeting in Chicago with a court-appointed mediator in an effort to resolve the case.

In its e-mail message sent last Tuesday to members of Congress, Microsoft said the trial was "entering a critical stage."

"Microsoft is serious about trying to settle this case, and we believe a common-sense settlement should be possible," the company said in its message.

A breakup would "slow Microsoft down with the equivalent of a regulatory death sentence while the high-tech economy whizzes by on Internet time," the message said.

Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat from Washington, where Microsoft is based, did not see Congress taking any specific action in response to the e-mail, but he is urging members to try not to influence the settlement talks toward bringing pressure for a breakup, something he opposes.

"I don't believe that would be good for the U.S. economy," Inslee said.

Various remedies have been suggested in the course of the investigation other than a breakup, which could include a review of Microsoft's business practices.

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