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Microsoft and Government near Settlement

  11/1/2001 - Thursday, November 01, 2001 8:24:56 AM MST Albuquerque, Nm
  By Dustin D. Brand; Owner AMO

After years in and out of court, Microsoft and the US Government may finally settle this.
  It all started in the early 90's after Netscape the Web Browser was created for a price, and then Microsoft released Internet Explorer for FREE.

  My state, the state of New Mexico has already settled with Microsoft, which brought the number of states suing Microsoft for anti-competitive practices to 18. The remaining 18 state attorneys general have reportedly just met with the US Justice Department in order to reach a settlement.

  Throughout the debate, and the lawsuit, Microsoft has remained steadfast and hasn't given in to the pressure. What really turns out to be evident after all of these years is the case of the sore loser/s; Microsoft's direct competitors - not the consumers. Microsofts' direct competitors, like Netscape (who is now part of AOL), AOL, Sun Microsystems, and others have gained significant leadway against Microsoft, but have also lost significant leadway - this is all part of a competitive marketplace. What really happened when Microsoft released Internet Explorer for FREE, and then bundled it with Windows was a revolution, not much unlike the initial Windows revolution.

  Within a few years, and coming from Netscape having 95% Web Browser Market Share, Netscape went bust, sold out to America Online, and by 1998 had only 20% of the Web Browser market share losing the rest to mostly Microsoft. The last few years have been even less kind to Netscape.

  In an agreement America Online made with Microsoft, which was the center of some controversy earlier this year, AOL agreed to use Internet Explorer as the AOL Web Browser so long as they could have an icon on each Windows Desktop sold. Earlier this year, Microsoft and AOL could not reach such the same agreement for the next few years, and now AOL is trying to find other ways onto the desktop, including buying the space from computer manufacturers.

  AOL, on the other hand, faces to lose at least $100 Million dollars since a court ordered they quit distributing America Online version 6.0 due to an infrigement relating to their purchase of NullSoft; the makers of WinAmp.

  Back to the Microsoft Anti-Trust case, the same case where people predicted Microsoft would be broken apart; Justice department officials were said to be comfortable with the settlement terms, according to Reuters, but over the next two days they will have to persuade the 18 state attorneys general. Some of the remaining 18 states would like to see Microsoft broken up, but since that won't happen, they'd at least like to see some other drastic measure taken against Microsoft.

  It's not that easy. The orignal Judge Jackson, who released his first judgement against Microsoft that they be broken into 2 seperate companies, was literally scoulded for his out of court behavior by a higher court, and all but had his entire ruling thrown out - dismissed.

  The Justice Department and Microsoft appear to have largely worked out the tentative agreement without the states, which apparently are reviewing the proposal. The question is, with the Justice Department and Microsoft agreeing, will the 18 remaining states?

  We might very well see the 18 states dwindle down to a few, with most of them taking the settlement, which in the case of New Mexico, was simply to cover the legal fees for the case for the state of NM, and also to allow NM to be party to any later settlement as far as damages. The Justice Department is likely to push for a unanimous agreement with all the 18 states, and the majority of the 18 states will also push for the same. Both sides were mum on any possible agreement, tentative or final however.

  "We don't have anything to say today," said Bob Brammer, spokesmen for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and one of the leaders of the states coalition. "I can't comment on any developments."

  I was unable to reach The Justice Department for comment, nor could I find any comments from them in any news sources.

  "We're working very hard in the settlement process, but we're not going to comment on any aspect of the discussions," said Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma.

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