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VNU Net: White House briefed on Microsoft's fate

Apr 26, 2000, 16:39 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Geralds)


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By John Geralds, VNU Net

Top US Justice Department antitrust officials briefed a White House team for about two hours yesterday on its proposal to break up Microsoft, although neither President Clinton nor Vice President Gore took part.

White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said the Justice Department provided an informational briefing to the president's economic team and said he does not expect administration officials will try to reshape the proposed remedy.

This represents the first time the White House has been directly involved in the Microsoft litigation since analysts reviewed the economic significance of the case last year.

Antitrust chief Joel Klein lead the briefing which included Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Martin Baily, along with White House lawyers.

Summers told reporters: "At this point what is being discussed is an economic issue. There is a feeling that it is appropriate to have a briefing on issues that clearly have important economic ramifications."

Shortly before the session, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer said he was confident that the software giant would eventually win the case and that it would not be broken up. "No matter what the newspaper headlines say, absolutely nothing in the current case justifies breaking us up," he said.

The federal proposal is believed to recommend carving the software giant into two companies: one that sells Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system, and another that sells its widely used Office software. US government officials acknowledged that such a remedy would be imposed only if US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson agrees, and only after an appeals court review.

A Microsoft spokesman said if these leaks and rumours were accurate, "this would represent radical and extreme government regulation of one of the most dynamic and competitive industries in the world".

Meanwhile, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates ignored the unpleasant issues to tout the PC's future at the Windows Hardware Engineering conference yesterday. Gates discussed Microsoft's plans to ready its Windows platform for a wireless, broadband computing future.

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