The 19 US states, who together with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) are involved in the ongoing antitrust action against Microsoft, reportedly see a serious revamp of the software giant's business operations as the only possible satisfactory outcome for the trial.
The antitrust trial is currently in recess until mid-April when both sides can call rebuttal witnesses. Once such testimony is complete, then Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will give his ruling on the case. At the conclusion of the witness testimony for both sides last month, the DOJ and U.S. states were seen to be winning by many observers largely due to the knocks Microsoft inflicted on its own case through a number of gaffes involving videotaped testimony and e-mail messages.
According to an article in the New York Times quoting a number of the state attorneys general involved in the antitrust trial, should Microsoft lose the case, the state officials would find any solution unacceptable other than one involving either the break-up of the software giant or the licensing of the source code for Microsoft's Windows operating system to third-party companies.
Currently in favor with the state officials is the latter option of source code licensing, said the report, with the aim of opening up competition in the operating systems market. A potential break-up of Microsoft could either see the software company split up into three different businesses -- operating systems, applications and Internet/multimedia -- or into three equal parts who could then compete with each other.
Again should Microsoft lose, many of the 19 states including Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Utah, according to the New York Times report, would welcome the chance granted under their own state laws to fine Microsoft for every antitrust violation. Fines for each incident could range from $US2,000 in Kentucky to $100,000 in New York, the report added. Should each incident be defined as the purchase of a copy of Windows, such fines could easily reach millions of dollars, the report said. However, there is as yet no complete definition of an antitrust violation incident.
The DOJ and 20 US states filed antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft in May of last year. The suits centered around the software vendor's decision to bundle its Internet Explorer Web browser with its Windows operating system. The bundling was seen as a way of Microsoft misusing its monopoly in its OS business to attempt to garner a larger share of other software businesses, thus stifling competition.
The antitrust trial kicked off on Oct. 19. In December, South Carolina withdrew from the lawsuit, claiming that the planned merger of America Online Inc. and Netscape Communications proved that there was plenty of competition in the Internet arena.