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Microsoft's Settlement Offer Inadequate, Says Justice Dept.

Settlement offer is too little, too late. Judge Jackson to release verdict some time after this Tuesday.

Last week, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers called Microsoft's last-minute offer to settle its antitrust case inadequate and are awaiting the trial judge's verdict on Tuesday. The attorneys and technical experts spent the weekend studying Microsoft's offer, which reportedly included a promise to separate Internet Explorer from Windows. But ultimately the Justice Department deemed Microsoft's proposal severely lacking in several key, unnamed areas.

Over the past four months, the federal government and Microsoft have tried to reach a settlement through secret talks mediated by Richard Posner, a federal appeals judge. At this point, however, the talks appear stalemated. The trial judge, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, earlier said he would render his verdict Tuesday unless progress was made in the talks.

In November, Jackson issued a preliminary ruling in the antitrust suit that strongly went against Microsoft. If he issues a final ruling, observers expect little or no softening in the judge's position. The Justice Department has backed away from an initial proposal to break Microsoft up into smaller, separate companies. But the government is expected to demand limits on what features Microsoft can add to Windows out of fear the company might use its dominant market position to impede a competitor's technology.

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