Concerned computer-industry executives have approached the Justice Department with a wide-ranging set of 10 proposed remedies they believe would help rein in the monopoly power of Microsoft Corp.
The proposals, which are contained in a document that is circulating among industry executives, include forcing Microsoft to divest its applications businesses from its operating-system business and establishing a monitoring system to track Microsoft's business practices.The Justice Department was not considering breaking up Microsoft, according to one industry executive, but it was looking at a range of other possibilities.
Microsoft officials dismissed the proposals, saying that they had responded to many of the points previously.
"This is a wish list from Microsoft competitors with no basis in the facts of this industry or the laws of this country," said Mark Murray, a Microsoft spokesman.
The issue of Microsoft's dominance of the computer industry has been sharpened in recent days as the Justice Department turned up the heat in its investigation.
Last week it served new civil investigative demands on leading personal-computer makers including Compaq Computer Corp., Gateway 2000 Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and others. The new round of investigative demands was first reported by CNet, a news service on the World Wide Web, on Friday afternoon.
The Justice Department now believes that it has collected enough evidence to bring a new antitrust case, according to several people close to the inquiry, and government lawyers were raising the threat of an expanded case as they prepared to confront Microsoft at the bargaining table.
An antitrust expert who is acting as a consultant to Microsoft said it would be surprising if the Justice Department filed a new suit in the next month, given the state of negotiations with the software publisher.
"The timing is in the hands of the department," said Charles Rule, a lawyer with the Washington firm of Covington & Burling who headed the Justice Department's antitrust division in the Ronald Reagan administration and is now a legal consultant to Microsoft. "But given the pace of normal investigations and based on the available information, it doesn't appear that anything is imminent."
Microsoft officials said Monday that they had asked the Justice Department for a meeting several weeks ago and expected to meet with the government lawyers next week.
Microsoft is nearing completion of Windows 98, the newest version of its operating system.