Microsoft calls potential breakup a "death sentence"

In an e-mail sent to members of Congress, Microsoft made what amounts to an appeal for help as the case winds rapidly to a close.

Both sides are due in court on Tuesday to make their final arguments before Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issues his "conclusions of law" or verdict.

Microsoft, US Department of Justice attorneys and representatives of the 19 states involved in this landmark antitrust case have been meeting in Chicago with a court-appointed mediator in an effort to resolve the case.

In its e-mail sent yesterday to members of Congress, Microsoft said the trial was "entering a critical stage."

"Microsoft is serious about trying to settle this case, and we believe a commonsense settlement should be possible," the company said.

A breakup would "slow Microsoft down with the equivalent of a regulatory death sentence while the high-tech economy whizzes by on Internet time. This solution would be a boon for our competitors, but would be harmful to consumers," the company added.

US Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), whose state Microsoft is based in, didn't see Congress taking any specific action in response to the e-mail, but he is urging members to not try to influence the settlement talks and bring pressure for a breakup, something he opposes. "I don't believe that would be good for the US economy," he said.

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