Microsoft Might Be Target of New U.S. Antitrust Case
The Justice Department’s top antitrust official and his staff will meet with Microsoft Corp. representatives Friday to discuss a possible new antitrust case against the software giant, a person familiar with the case said Monday.
Some in the Justice Department believe there is now enough evidence to bring a new case against Microsoft under the nation’s antitrust laws, according to the source.
In such instances, the assistant attorney general--currently Joel Klein--traditionally has met with representatives of the company or companies involved so they may offer their views.
At the same meeting, the antitrust chief listens to the opinions of his staff, which may be divided.
Justice Department officials who favor bringing the case would like to do so as soon as possible, before the release of Windows 98, an update to Windows 95 that integrates the operating system and Internet capabilities more tightly than ever.
Microsoft is expected to release so-called “gold code” of the operating system to manufacturers by mid-May or early June to meet a targeted June 25 date for release to retailers.
Microsoft fell $3.06 to close at $89.94 in trading on Nasdaq, where it was the most active issue on volume of nearly 1.9 million shares, after a published report that the Justice Department might go ahead with a new lawsuit this month.
A Microsoft spokesman said the company remains confident Windows 98 will launch as scheduled.
However, in an apparent signal that the company has softened its hard-line approach, the spokesman said Microsoft would be willing to negotiate with the Justice Department over any problems the agency has with Windows 98.
In December, the antitrust regulators won a court order that forced Microsoft to offer computer makers a version of Windows 95 without any easy methods of access to its Internet Explorer browser.