Article 6 of 54
Rob Kaiser, Tribune Staff Writer Tribune news services contributed to this report
Chicago Tribune
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(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 Windows-compatible software.

"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 experts.

"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.


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