U.S. DOJ Reported Close to New Microsoft Charges

The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday declined to comment on a report that its probe of Microsoft Corp.'s business practices may result in a new antitrust case being brought against the company by the end of April.

The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday declined to comment on a report that its probe of Microsoft Corp.'s business practices may result in a new antitrust case being brought against the company by the end of April.

"We're still in the middle of open matters," said Michael Gordon, a spokesman for the department.

Citing sources close to the investigation, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that if the new case goes forward, it would allege "illegal maintenance and extension" of the software giant's control of PC operating systems in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. It would also include the charge that Microsoft's bundling of its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows operating system violates a 1995 antitrust settlement, the report said.

A Microsoft spokesman in the U.S. said the published report was based on speculation and that Microsoft couldn't comment on speculation, or confirm or deny the report.

"We're working closely and cooperatively with the Justice Department to provide them all the information they need, and we're optimistic that after reviewing all the facts, that they'll agree that Microsoft is competing within the law and competing fairly," said Tom Pilla.

Government investigators are hurrying to complete their work before Microsoft releases the next version of its operating system, Windows 98, to PC manufacturers in mid-May, the Journal reported. Justice Department antitrust chief Joel Klein has not yet approved the filing of a new case, the Journal's sources said.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080, or at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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