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States push for shackles on MS in settlement talks

It looks like Bill & Co will be facing some tough demands

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MS on Trial Bill Gates would not comment on the possibility of successful settlement talks with the DoJ yesterday: "I think that kind of speculation is not valuable," he said, sticking to the script. "We've certainly been interested even before the lawsuit was filed." He then went on again to demand that the "integrity" of Windows be preserved, and that if so, "it would be nice if a settlement could be reached." This time around the DoJ will not be allowed to accept a pathetically weak consent decree, since the 19 states + DC effectively act as a stiffener to stop any sign of weakness. The states can seek different and additional remedies. Comments from state attorney generals have all suggested that what Microsoft is offering falls far short of the minimum necessary concessions. The DoJ has not commented. The Seattle Times carried a report on Sunday that the states wanted Microsoft to be forced to auction Windows and the trademarks. Assuming the story is true, it was quite a coup for the newspaper to get a leaked copy, since Washington state is not one of the 19 states opposing Microsoft. It would be most interesting to know how and why this leak occurred. It is unlikely that Microsoft assisted in any way, since the proposal would be violently opposed at Redmond. The report says that the states' white paper, written by Kevin O'Connor, the Wisconsin attorney general, requires more than Microsoft promising to sin no more. Specific terms mentioned include the prohibition of exclusionary contracts and predatory conduct. Threats by Microsoft to withhold products would not be allowed. Acquisitions would require approval. Modifying software, such as Java, would not be allowed (and it is to be hoped that this would be broadened into preventing Microsoft from subverting standards). The states also want Microsoft to disclose prices, and to stop discriminating in its prices. Microsoft has been looking naked in Euroland (since discrepancies in Euro prices are now apparent even to the arithmetically challenged). Cheaper prices in Spain have contrasted sharply with high prices in Sweden, so Microsoft is now having to harmonise prices. Compulsory licensing is also favoured by the states, although alternatives are apparently considered, including source code disclosure and breaking Microsoft into Babysofts along product lines. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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