WASHINGTON – Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. welcomed the Department of Justice’s decision Thursday not to seek a breakup of Microsoft Corp. in continuing antitrust proceedings against the software giant.
“The Justice Department has chosen to not seek a breakup, but rather to rely on imposing conduct restrictions,” said Curran, one of 19 state attorneys general that sued Microsoft with the federal government.
“This idea of conduct restrictions is something we perceived as the better idea two years ago. We feel they would accomplish much of what we wanted to do in the first instance,” Curran said.
The Antitrust Division of the Justice Department also announced Thursday that it would not seek to reprimand Microsoft for illegally hurting competitors by tying its Internet browser to its Windows operating system.
Though Microsoft will not be broken up into separate operating systems and businesses, as previously ordered by the court, it may be subject to other restrictions, yet to be determined, on business practices. The Justice Department will ask the court to investigate the need for these restrictions.
“We remain committed to resolving the remaining issues in this case,” said Jim Desler, public relations for Microsoft Corp. “Aside from that, we are not offering any further comment or elaboration on today’s announcement.”
The announcement came just eight days before the government and Microsoft are to present a joint status report to the U.S. District Court in Washington, which earlier ruled that Microsoft had engaged in monopolistic practices.
The court will use the status report before devising a remedy against Microsoft in the case.
“We are seeking this as an action to bring prompt, effective, and certain relief for consumers,” said Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the Antitrust Division.
In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s ruling that found Microsoft maintained an illegal monopoly over PC-based operating systems. But the appellate court reversed the lower court’s finding that the corporation had tied its Internet browser to Windows, calling for further consideration under a stricter legal standard.
The Court of Appeals also threw out remedies imposed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who was removed from the case after he made what some saw as prejudicial statements to the media on the case. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly took over the case.
Anthony Sabino, an antitrust expert at St. John’s University in New York, said in a prepared statement that the decision is a majority victory for the American economy.
“It returns stability to one of the world’s technology titans, whose success was at the heart of the global economic boom. It’s a decision that has huge economic implications.”