Microsoft to discuss settlement with DoJ

Microsoft will meet on Tuesday with the US Department of Justice and state attorneys general to discuss the company's offer to settle its antitrust case, a state attorney general said.

Attorneys general from the 19 states that have joined in the lawsuit against Microsoft have met to consider the settlement delivered yesterday by the company.

Following the meeting, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said the parties would meet on Tuesday, but she would not give any indication on how far apart the two sides may be.

"All settlement talks envision proposals and counterproposals," said Madrid. Asked if there was any reason for optimism that a settlement might be reached, Madrid said "there is always optimism."

State officials emerged from the meeting tight-lipped. Iowa's attorney general, Tom Miller, said settlement negotiations are usually "much more successful" if kept confidential.

A Microsoft official, who didn't want to be named, said: "We are taking very seriously the judge's direction to both sides that we explore settlement discussions."

"We intend to make a good-faith effort with the government to see whether it is possible to resolve this case," the Microsoft official added.

But California Attorney General Bill Lockyer was quoted, in a report by Reuters on Wednesday, as describing Microsoft's proposal as a "minimalist opening offer."

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was in Washington yesterday to plug his new book, "Business @ The Speed of Thought." In a meeting with students at Georgetown University, Gates talked about the trends he sees developing in business commerce and about the importance of the Internet at work and home.

The hour-long presentation included a 10-minute question and answer period from students. None of the students asked Gates about the government's antitrust case and Gates made no mention of it in his talk.

The Microsoft antitrust trial has been on recess since the end of February. The court is expected to hold a status hearing on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming schedule. Another trial being heard by the judge of the Microsoft case -- Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson -- could delay the resumption of the Microsoft trial -- if no settlement is reached -- to mid-May.

The government is also expected on Wednesday to announce its rebuttal witnesses.

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