Microsoft anti-trust suit returns to court

MICROSOFT AND the US government clashed again in court yesterday, as both sides presented their closing arguments in their long-running competition battle.

The government and 19 states brought a case against the software giant charging that it abused its monopoly power over operating systems to gain an advantage in the burgeoning Internet browser market. Microsoft says that it did not have monopoly power, that its methods were only those of any commercial company and that there is competition.

The government sought to underline the mainstay of its case: that Microsoft has a dominant position in the market for operating systems through Windows. "No company has been able to make a dent in that market in a decade," said Stephen Houck of the New York attorney-general's office.

US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson may present his verdict as early as next month, and each side will then produce its findings of law. Judge Jackson will then present his findings, though the case is all but certain to roll on to a Supreme Court appeal. Despite frequent entreaties from Mr Jackson and a number of meetings, the two sides have yet to come even close to a negotiated settlement.

One of the biggest problemsis that since the trial began last October, both technology and the corporate landscape have changed. America Online bought Netscape, thebrowser company which Microsoft was alleged to have targetted. The focus of computing has shifted from PC-based systems to the Internet and network servers, where Microsoft has a weaker position. Microsoft argues that the AOL deal and the rise of the Linux operating system, make the lawsuit immaterial.

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