Ballmer tells workers Microsoft will settle

Ballmer tells workers Microsoft will settle

An internal message to Microsoft employees sent on Monday from Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer maintains that the company has made "substantial proposals" to settle the federal antitrust case against it, according to the email as it appeared on the Wall Street Journal's website late yesterday.

US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is poised to issue his conclusions of law if the parties involved -- Microsoft, the US Department of Justice and 19 US states -- do not work out a settlement, with the help of Richard Posner, chief judge of the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals in Chicago, the mediator appointed by Jackson.

Jackson has prohibited the parties from outside discussion of the settlement talks, but Ballmer sent the internal memo, which lacks specifics, to counter news stories about the settlement talks which have appeared, many of which have been "largely inaccurate", according to the text of Ballmer's email.

Ballmer said that Microsoft's settlement offers exceed the remedy likely to be delivered by the courts. "We believe we've put more on the table than the judicial process would ultimately provide, even if we lost the case."

Microsoft remains "very sure of our legal position" and is "prepared to take it all the way on appeal", but it remains unclear whether a settlement can be achieved, according to the e-mail.

In November of last year, Jackson ruled in his findings of fact that Microsoft is a monopoly and has used its operating system dominance to squelch competition in the browser market. The judge's findings of fact went a long way toward supporting the US government's case that Microsoft has abused its monopoly position in the desktop operating systems market.

However, Jackson's findings at that time didn't rule on whether the software vendor had violated antitrust law, another one of the government's contentions. Once the judge's conclusions of law are issued, the stage will then be set to consider remedies for the case, which could potentially involve a breakup of the software giant -- a move Microsoft vehemently opposes.

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