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DoJ prepares to demand break-up of Microsoft

Thoughts at Justice seem to be turning to the nuclear option

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MS on Trial Against expectations, the DoJ has been asking investment bankers how Microsoft could be split up. It had been thought that only the states, co-plaintiffs in the case, wanted this solution. However, it would be wrong to assume that just because the DoJ has made some enquiries, that break-up is the favoured course of action. In a complex case, it is normal practice to examine all possible remedies in some depth. Gina Talamona, the DoJ spokeswoman, confirmed that "experts" had been approached, but that nobody had been retained. Talamona confirmed that all options remained open, and that there was no focus on a particular remedy. The investment banks concerned not only did not want to be identified, but refused to help because their interests are completely opposed to harming Microsoft, largely because they almost certainly have positions that would be improved by Microsoft's continuation. In the longer term, break-up would probably cause even greater growth, but US investment bankers work from year-to-year, if not hour-to-hour, rather than having a five-year perspective, which largely accounts for the gold rush atmosphere in US markets. The other downside to even considering involving investment bankers is that they are particularly poorly informed about the industry, as can be seen from Microsoft's recent financial analysts meeting where the presentations were at a superficial level, befitting their lack of understanding of industry issues, and even worse, their serious lack of objectivity. A report in USA Today suggested that the DoJ was interested in where the logical break points were in Microsoft, and to know what the market reaction would be. If true, and it sounds doubtful, it is undesirable that the DoJ should be concerned with market reaction. The case, after all, is about the harm to consumers as a result of Microsoft's actions, and how the industry has been distorted to focus on areas where Microsoft is not dominant. For what it's worth, Jim Cullinan, who was spoking for Microsoft yesterday, said that Microsoft was not focussed on remedies, and that "we believe the facts will show we competed fairly". Verb sap. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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