U.S. Government Won't Try To Break Up Microsoft

By BridgeNews The Dept. of Justice is abandoning its attempt to break up Microsoft Corp. and will stop pursuing a claim that the software company illegally tied its Internet Explorer Web browser with the Windows operating system. The news represents a reversal of the Clinton Administration's effort to have the courts split the company into separate businesses selling applications software and operating systems. Federal District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled last year that Microsoft had violated antitrust law and ordered that it be split in two. In June, an appeals court upheld Jackson's ruling that Microsoft illegally tried to maintain its monopoly on personal computer operating systems but rejected his penalty. The appeals court also reversed Jackson's ruling that Microsoft illegally tied Internet Explorer to Windows. It called for a second district judge to reconsider the tying claim under a higher legal standard and devise new penalties for Microsoft. "In light of the court of appeals opinion and the need for prompt, effective, and certain relief, the department will not seek a breakup of the company into separate operating and applications businesses, as previously had been ordered by the court," a Justice Dept. press release said. Instead, the government will try to win a permanent order modeled on temporary restrictions Jackson had placed on Microsoft's conduct. Among other requirements, those rules forced Microsoft to let computer makers display icons for non-Microsoft products on the Windows desktop, and disclose technical details needed to make other companies' software work properly on the Windows system. Microsoft still faces an investigation by European Commission antitrust regulators. The commission is looking into allegations that the software company hurt competitors by tying its Media Player software to the Windows systems. The commission also believes Microsoft may have violated European antitrust law by using its control of Windows to try to dominate the market for low-end operating systems for servers.

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