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MICROSOFT JUDGE DELAYS RULING AS TALKS RESTART
Rob Kaiser, Tribune Staff Writer Tribune news services contributed to
Chicago Sports Final
(Copyright 2000 by the Chicago Tribune)
The judge in the Microsoft antitrust trial did not issue a ruling
Tuesday, after his warning that he would do so had the intended
effect of restarting serious settlement discussions between the
software giant and government officials.
People familiar with the case said U.S. District Judge Thomas
Penfield Jackson may delay his verdict for up to 10 days, but they
did not have a precise deadline.
Neither Microsoft nor government officials had any comment Tuesday
about progress toward a settlement.
In November, Jackson issued a finding of facts in the case, filed
by the Justice Department and 19 states, holding that Microsoft was a
monopoly that had abused its power. Instead of issuing a final
ruling, though, Jackson appointed Richard Posner, chief judge of the
Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, as mediator to try to
broker a settlemen.
An industry figure said he believes Posner did not want to give up
on the mediation process now after four months of trying to bring the
case to a conclusion.
"This is a strong-willed mediator who does not want to declare the
mediation process dead yet," said Ken Wasch, president of the
Software and Information Industry Association.
Jackson's warning last week that he would issue a ruling Tuesday
prompted Microsoft to make a new settlement proposal. While
government officials generally dismissed the proposal as not
addressing their demands, it renewed hope for a settlement.
The proposal from Microsoft included making more of the inner
workings of its Windows operating system, known as application
programming interfaces, or APIs, available to competitors that make
"This is tremendous progress for Microsoft," said Michael
Cusumano, a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. "They've come a long way."
Still, getting the company and government officials to nail down a
final deal will take much more deliberation, according to antitrust
"Microsoft sees it more as technology and innovation issues, and
the government sees it more of an issue of market dominance," said
Nicholas Economides , an economics professor at New York University.
While the government has Jackson's finding of facts on its side,
officials still must come together under one proposal if they want to
settle the case out of court and avoid a potentially long appeals
process following Jackson's ruling.
The government is also keeping an eye on the coming presidential
election, because a switch to a Republican administration could
drastically shift how the government pursues antitrust cases.
"Microsoft might be able to get a much more laid-back deal after
the elections," Economides said.