Microsoft fires last salvo

www.infoworld.com |  Business

MICROSOFT ON TUESDAY filed what's expected to be the final brief in its historic antitrust battle with the government, in which it harshly criticizes the government's latest proposal as to how the software maker should be punished for its violations of antitrust law.

The filing should bring to an end a series of back-and-forth exchanges in which lawyers from the two camps have argued the terms of remedy proposals that will be considered by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. The government's remedy proposal calls for the breakup of Microsoft into two companies: an operating systems company and an applications company.

Under a schedule set by Jackson last week, Microsoft's filing was not due until Wednesday. But since the government's latest filing yesterday made only minor changes to its original breakup proposal, Microsoft didn't need all the time allotted to it by the court, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.

The submission from Microsoft means that Jackson could issue a final ruling in the case as early as Wednesday. Comments made by Jackson in recent court hearings have led court watchers to believe he will recommend a breakup of the company, a verdict that Microsoft will certainly appeal.

In its filing on Tuesday, Microsoft repeats its claim that splitting the company in two would cause significant harm to computer manufacturers, software developers and others in the industry. The company also takes the government to task for making only "cosmetic" changes to the revised breakup proposal that it submitted last week, which Microsoft called "so vague and ambiguous as to be unintelligible."

In attempting to clear up the ambiguities in its original breakup plan, Microsoft argued on Tuesday, the government has created a proposal, that if anything, is more extreme.

"The government has now underscored its intention to force Microsoft to redesign its existing operating systems, including Windows 98 and Windows 2000 Professional, to eliminate cross-dependencies between what the government calls the Operating System and what the government calls Middleware Products [which are, in reality, all elements of a single product]," Microsoft said in Tuesday's filing.

"The government's assurance that this forced redesign of shipping products would pose no problem... is a cynical response to the substantial injury the public will sustain if Microsoft is forced to cease distributing these products next winter because it simply cannot do what the government suggests in the time provided," the software maker wrote.

Microsoft concludes by asking the court to include its suggested modifications if the judge enters a final judgement that uses all or any of the government's breakup plan.

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