MS-DOJ: US gov't makes minor changes in plan

Microsoft's request that it be allowed more time to submit a plan if a US court orders a company breakup was rejected yesterday by the US government,

          Microsoft's request that it be allowed more time to submit a plan if a US court orders a company breakup was rejected yesterday by the US government in its latest filing in the remedies phase of the historic antitrust case against the software maker.

          Microsoft suggested in its most recent court document, filed last week, that it have a full year to file its plan for splitting the company in two and that it have to file only memos describing business agreements between the two halves. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and 17 state attorneys general said today that such a waiting period is "unwarranted."

          Yesterday's document is a response to Microsoft's revised proposal regarding remedies in the case. Microsoft has until Wednesday to respond to today's government filing, which further notes that "many" of Microsoft's comments in its last court brief go beyond addressing remedies proposals and instead are arguments that the company already has raised and that already have been countered by the plaintiffs.

          Overall, though, there are no surprises in the government brief, which delves into semantics, with the plaintiffs agreeing with a Microsoft request to call the proposed breakup of the company a "divestiture" rather than a "reorganisation," for instance.

          The DOJ and 17 of 19 state attorneys general who filed suit against Microsoft have recommended that US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson order the company be split in two, with one entity focused on operating systems and another on other software applications. Microsoft vehemently opposes that plan, though it has said it will agree to behavioral remedies. Two state attorneys general have recommended only behavioral remedies, which are aimed at stopping Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior.

          Judge Jackson has ruled that Microsoft is a monopoly and illegally used its monopoly power in the operating systems market in an attempt to squelch competition and to make inroads into other markets, notably Internet browser software.

          He is expected to issue his final ruling, which will set forth the remedies he wants imposed on Microsoft, perhaps as soon as this week. Jackson is widely viewed as already having made his decision

          "He seems to me like a man who is desperately trying to catch a train," Bill Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University, said of Jackson and the speed with which he is pushing along the remedy phase.

          Kovacic expects that the government brief filed today will wind up being the final remedy ruling from Jackson. He predicted that Jackson will "take the government's revised order and sign it."

          Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/. The DOJ, in Washington, D.C., can be reached at http://www.usdoj.gov/.

          (Additional reporting by Margret Johnston in Washington, D.C.)

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