Questions and answers about Microsoft trial


Friday, November 5th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Common questions and answers about the
Microsoft antitrust trial:

Q: My computer uses Microsoft Windows. How does this trial affect me?
A: The trial's outcome is unlikely to affect Microsoft customers immediately, since a product recall is not being considered. But
the judge eventually could order Microsoft to change the way it designs Windows, such as requiring it to offer one version without an Internet browser, or requiring it to include rival software programs within Windows. In the most extreme case, which many
experts consider unlikely, the judge could break up Microsoft into smaller companies that would compete against each other by selling different versions of software.

Q: How did the judge issue his ruling?
A: The judge decided on an unusual process. First, he issued his "factual findings," in which he decided some key questions. But he won't decide which antitrust laws Microsoft violated for possibly another month or more. And he won't decide whether or how Microsoft should be punished until later, possibly in the spring.

Q: Why did the judge split his ruling this way?
A: Legal experts believe the judge wants to encourage the sides to negotiate a settlement and avoid the risks of imposing punishment on one of the world's most successful companies, which is helping drive the booming economy surrounding the high-tech industry. The sides have met at least three times since the trial
started but remain far apart on some central issues.

Q: Since the judge declared Microsoft a monopoly, does that mean the company has done something illegal?
A: Federal laws don't prohibit a company from achieving monopoly power by selling popular products or making shrewd business decisions. Some major corporations -- including IBM, Xerox and Eastman Kodak -- all have been declared to be legal monopolies in
certain markets. But it is illegal to achieve or sustain a monopoly through illegal practices.

Q: Where can I read the judge's decision?
A: The U.S. District Court posted the judge's factual findings on a Web site run by the Government Printing Office, at http://usvms.gpo.