The pro-business Bush administration is signaling its distaste for the Microsoft antitrust case, as the two sides are getting closer to a settlement on how to penalize Microsoft for abusing its monopoly position.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would no longer seek to break apart the software company. Justice officials also said they would not pursue charges that Microsoft illegally bundled its Internet Explorer browser into the Windows operating system. The company, the agency and attorneys general from 18 states are scheduled to meet in U.S. District Court on Sept. 14 to discuss the next steps in the case.
By backtracking on prior insistence (during the Clinton administration) and its own recent rhetoric that Microsoft must be broken up as a penalty for monopoly abuses, the Justice Department is likely conditioning the public that the Bush administration believes it is bad politics to pursue the case.
The purpose of the current phase in the federal government's antitrust case against Microsoft--following the June ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that upheld an earlier decision that the company abused its monopoly--is to determine the penalty that Microsoft must pay for that violation. The new judge in the case, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, last month directed the Justice Department and Microsoft to complete a joint report by Sept. 14, a move that Gartner interpreted as nudging the two sides to devise a penalty settlement. Thursday's unexpected announcement signals that progress is being made toward such an agreement.
See news story:
Justice Dept. downshifts in Microsoft case
However, should Windows XP fail to impress the technology sector and help ignite an economic renewal, then the ensuing disappointment may spur increased government scrutiny on Microsoft, product by product, if a broader settlement of this case hasn't already been reached by then.
(For a related commentary on Microsoft's release of Windows XP, see Gartner.com.)
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