WASHINGTON -- Facing a deadline to negotiate an end to its antitrust case by early this week, the Microsoft Corp. faxed a detailed settlement proposal to lawyers for the government.
The trial judge has warned that he will deliver his verdict Tuesday absent progress in settlement talks in Chicago, where a federal appeals judge is trying to bring the sides together.
But Microsoft's eleventh-hour offer Friday failed to persuade government lawyers to rush to Chicago immediately to resume those talks. They carefully reviewed the company's offer throughout Friday and expected to ask Microsoft to clarify some of its proposals.
Face-to-face discussions still could take place Sunday or Monday.
It was unclear what was fully contained within the proposal, which was described as technically complicated. Dow Jones news service, citing anonymous sources, reported that Microsoft agreed to separate its Internet browser software from its dominant Windows operating system.
ABC News, also citing an anonymous source, said Microsoft agreed to government oversight of some of its business practices, but not to limits on what features or functions it could add to its dominant Windows software. It also said Microsoft was offering to consider releasing prized blueprints of some of its software code, but insisting it not be required to admit that it had violated antitrust law.
Like an unfavorable verdict, such an admission could be used against Microsoft in roughly 115 related private lawsuits that have been filed against the software giant.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson imposed the Tuesday deadline during a private meeting with lawyers earlier this week in Washington. It lent renewed urgency to those negotiations, overseen by the Chicago appeals judge, Richard Posner.
Other sources close to the antitrust case have indicated government lawyers are backing away from proposals to break up Microsoft in order to restrain what Jackson already has characterized as the company's abuse of its monopoly power over the technology industry.
''The prospects all along for structural relief were somewhat remote,'' said Mark Schechter, a former senior Justice Department official who participated in 1994 settlement talks with Microsoft in a related case. ''The issue on the table is whether Microsoft will make a proposal with sufficiently extensive behavioral provisions to satisfy the government's concerns.''
Lawyers for Microsoft, Justice and the 19 states in the case declined to speak publicly about the settlement offer or their plans for the weekend.
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