Microsoft, DOJ meeting lasts two hours

Microsoft 's legal team met late yesterday with attorneys from the US Department of Justice and attorneys general from some of the 19 US states in an attempt to settle the ongoing antitrust case against the software giant. The meeting lasted for just over two hours before breaking up. Both sides left without talking to reporters who had been staking out the DOJ's Washington headquarters.

Microsoft 's legal team met late yesterday with attorneys from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and attorneys general from some of the 19 US states in an attempt to settle the ongoing antitrust case against the software giant.

The meeting lasted for just over two hours before breaking up. Both sides left without talking to reporters who had been staking out the DOJ's Washington headquarters.

The two sides are scheduled to meet again in US District Court tomorrow morning for a status hearing on the case. The antitrust trial, which has been in recess since the end of February, was expected to resume April 12.

However the judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson, is currently involved in hearing a narcotics case, which is likely to last several more weeks. The antitrust trial -- if no settlement is reached -- isn't expected to resume now for at least that long.

The only indication of how today's negotiation session went came when a DOJ security officer told reporters that the meeting was scheduled to go no later than 9 p.m. EST. Instead, the meeting, which began shortly after 5 p.m. ended at 7 p.m., well before the meeting deadline.

Among those at the meeting were Microsoft's Vice President for Legal Affairs William Neukom; a defense attorney, Richard Urowsky; and Rick Rule, a legal advisor to Microsoft.

Microsoft delivered a settlement proposal to the government last week, but the Microsoft proposal appears to have been far less than what the government is seeking. Among the remedies being discussed by the government are the possible break-up of Microsoft and forcing the software vendor to license its Windows operating systems to third-party companies.

Before the trial's recess began, Judge Jackson told both sides that they should use the recess time wisely, a suggestion which will could be read as a recommendation to reach a settlement.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or on the Web at http://www.microsoft.com/. The DOJ can be reached at http://www.usdoj.gov/.

(Thibodeau is a senior reporter for Computerworld.)

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