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Judge will issue Microsoft decision today

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will issue the final ruling today in the landmark antitrust case, potentially ordering that the software giant be broken into two companies.

    U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will issue the final ruling today in the Microsoft case, potentially ordering that the software giant be broken into two companies.

    A court spokesman said Jackson will issue his ruling at 1:30 p.m. PT, bringing the nearly two-year trial to a close and setting off the appeals process. Court spokesman Joseph Alexander initially said this morning that Jackson's ruling would come at 12:00 p.m. PT. No reason was given for the delay.

    Jackson is expected to largely accept a government proposal to break Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft into separate operating systems and software application companies. The ruling is also expected to place additional conduct restrictions on Microsoft that would go into effect in 90 days.

    "I would imagine he is simply going to amend the original proposed order with the Justice Department's adjustments from (Monday), sign and date that order, and maybe issue an opinion with it," said George Washington University Law School professor Bill Kovacic.

    Yesterday, Microsoft responded to a government brief that lambasted changes the software maker had proposed to the government's remedy proposal. The company faulted the government for ambiguities and other problems in its plan that would unfairly punish the company and give its intellectual property away to competitors.

    While Jackson is expected to order the two-way breakup, he is expected to stay that order pending appeal. The conduct Breaking the giant: Special Coveragerestrictions, however, would go into effect in three months, unless Microsoft successfully gets an appellate court to stay the orders or strike them down altogether.

    Most legal experts predict Microsoft will launch the preliminary appeal immediately but could wait as long as 60 days on its larger appeal.

    In April, Jackson ruled Microsoft violated two sections of the 1890 Sherman Act by illegally maintaining its operating systems monopoly and unlawfully extending that into the Web browser market.