In an unexpected move, the US Department of Justice said today that it won't seek a Microsoft breakup when the remedy phase of the company's antitrust trial resumes later this month. But the decision to forego a breakup, which seems to indicate a willingness on DOJ's part to settle the case, wasn't the only bombshell. The DOJ also said that it will drop the Internet Explorer (IE)/Windows product-bundling charges, effectively ending a central argument in the case and excluding any Windows XP complaints from affecting the upcoming remedy phase.
"The \[DOJ's\] Antitrust Division today advised Microsoft that it will not seek a breakup of the company in remand proceedings before the US District Court," the DOJ said in a statement. "It also informed the company that it does not intend to pursue further proceedings on the tying count of the original complaint. The Department said it is taking these steps in an effort to obtain prompt, effective, and certain relief for consumers."
The DOJ says that its case is strong enough without the tying complaint, largely because the courts that have heard the case universally agreed about Microsoft's monopoly. "In view of the Court of Appeals' unanimous decision that Microsoft illegally maintained its monopoly over PC-based \[OSs\]--the core allegation in the case--the Department believes that it has established a basis for relief that would end Microsoft's unlawful conduct, prevent its recurrence, and open the \[OS\] market to competition," the statement reads. "Pursuing a liability determination on the tying claim would only prolong proceedings and delay the imposition of relief that would benefit consumers."
The DOJ says that it will now seek some sort of conduct-related penalty against Microsoft. And because the DOJ significantly reduced the case, it will seek to expedite the upcoming remedy phase as well.