DOJ: Settlement hinges on more open Windows

Prosecutors for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) say that any pending settlement in the Microsoft antitrust case must limit the company's ability to abuse its monopoly power in operating systems. This could take a variety of forms, including the licensing of the Windows source code or breaking up Microsoft into smaller companies, each of which could create its own custom version of Windows. But any settlement will need to be approved by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who handed down a "slam dunk" victory for the DOJ Friday when he published his findings of fact in the case. The government doesn't exactly need to cater to Microsoft's every whim, given its current legal position.

"We are now in a position to get a rather dramatic remedy," said Eliot Spitzer, New York's Attorney General. "It's an overwhelming opinion now that it has to address their monopoly in operating systems."

Of course, Microsoft is taking a cautionary approach to the findings, noting that it would like to settle the case but preserve its "right to innovate" and add new features to Windows. Microsoft executives point out that the findings of fact are but one part of the overall process.

"We believe it is premature for anyone to be talking about regulatory steps before the court actually issues a ruling," a Microsoft spokesperson said this week.

Regardless, the government's clear legal victory this week places possible resolutions to the conflict in the forefront. If Microsoft can get a settlement before the Judge makes his findings of law, at least it will have some say in its own future

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