Judge Will Rule on Microsoft Breakup Today

BOSTON (06/07/2000) - U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson plans to issue a ruling today at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on the government's antitrust proposal to break up Microsoft Corp., according to an announcement made by the Washington-based court this morning. It's a plan Microsoft clearly loathes and will appeal.

The court initially said the judge's ruling would be issued at 3 p.m. eastern time but then delayed the scheduled release by 90 minutes. No explanation was given, but Jackson typically has waited until after the stock markets have closed before issuing major decisions in the antitrust case.

Some antitrust experts say it's likely that Jackson will sign the government's proposed breakup plan with little or no change. The judge already has ruled that the software giant is guilty of anticompetitive behavior in the desktop operating system market and has given every indication that he will order the company to be split into at least two pieces.

Jackson's final opinion and remedy order in the 2-year-old antitrust case will be posted at the U.S. Government Printing Office's Web site after it is released, according to the court's announcement.

Microsoft, in its final brief in the case, yesterday again lambasted the government's proposal to split the company in two - separating its operating systems from its application and Web browser - as too extreme, excessively punitive and unsupported by the facts.

The company added that the proposed breakup order's language is so vague and "unintelligible" that Microsoft employees won't know how to comply and might feel compelled to resign instead.

Microsoft was replying to a last brief filed Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice and the 17 states also involved in the case. The government claimed Microsoft was trying to insert loopholes into the breakup proposal and agreed to few of the changes the company had requested in an earlier filing with the court.

"The few changes to which the government has agreed are purely cosmetic and do nothing to remedy the serious substantive deficiences of the (proposed breakup) decree," Microsoft's latest filing said. The company added that the DOJ's interpretations of the proposed decree are even more sweeping than the company had feared.

For example, Microsoft said the government "has made plain that it contemplates a wholesale transfer of proprietary information about Microsoft's operating systems to competitors on a royalty-free basis." Furthermore, the company complained that the DOJ plans to "regulate the manner in which Microsoft designs its operating systems," including what features to add.

A DOJ spokeswoman called Microsoft "in denial" about the judge's verdict and said the company is distorting the government's breakup proposal, which also would regulate Microsoft's dealings with PC vendors to ensure they can use non-Microsoft products.

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