States Split on MS Settlement

Nine of the eighteen states involved in the Microsoft antitrust suit have officially agreed to settle the case, while the remaining group will push for continued litigation. The Justice Department and Microsoft jointly proposed a settlement last week, and US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly gave the states until Tuesday to decide whether or not to dissent.

The case will now move forward on two parallel tracks, according to Kollar-Kotelly. The public will have 60 days to comment on the settlement, followed by a 30-day period for the government to respond. The court will then hold hearings to ensure that the settlement is in the public's best interest, as required by the Tunney Act.

Separately, the nine opposing states will continue their quest to impose sanctions on the software giant. However, several may decide to settle after further review of the proposal.

Redmond rival AOL Time Warner chimed in with its opinion, claiming the "agreement fails to protect consumer choice and promote competition by leaving Microsoft free to continue to abuse its monopoly."

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates issued a statement following the news. "We are pleased that nine states have joined the Department of Justice in supporting this settlement. The fact that so many states have joined the federal government in supporting this agreement is a very significant positive step toward resolving these issues once and for all," Gates said. "We hope that the remaining states will join in this agreement, so that everyone can focus on the future and avoid the unnecessary costs and delays of further litigation."

During the long day of talks, three of the six undecided states moved to support the pact, after Microsoft agreed to a small number of additional concessions.

New York, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina, and Kentucky backed the settlement. California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, West Virginia, Minnesota, Utah, Kansas, Florida, and the District of Columbia refused to sign on.

Microsoft had previously settled with New Mexico, after agreeing to pay all legal costs the state incurred in the case.

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