DOJ decides: Breaking up is hard to do

On Thursday the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would no longer pursue a breakup of Microsoft Corp., although it will still seek other penalties aimed at changing Microsoft’s conduct in the marketplace. The target is the company’s monopoly over PC-based operating systems, which the courts have declared illegal.

The DOJ said it would ask a court to decide if "additional conduct-related provisions are necessary," in what could be viewed as a reference to Microsoft’s upcoming Windows XP operating system launch.

Government lawyers also informed the company that it would not continue to press its argument that Microsoft illegally tied its Internet browser to its Windows operating system.

The breakup of the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant was a key part of last year’s blistering decision that saw Judge Thomas Pennfield Jackson ordering that Microsoft be split into distinct applications and operating system companies. The landmark DOJ–Microsoft antitrust trial began in October, 1998.

Late in June of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals remanded the case to the U.S. District Court, at the same time criticizing Judge Jackson’s trial conduct. Although it was quick to publicly respond to that development, Microsoft was mute in response to Thursday’s news. Some viewers suggest that the company is not out of the woods yet.

For their part, DOJ lawyers said its latest move was intended to speedily end the antitrust proceedings. In a statement, the DOJ said it still hoped to impose behavioral remedies upon the maker of Windows.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.