The U.S. Justice Department and computer giant Microsoft have agreed to settle a three-year legal battle over how the company's popular Windows operating system is marketed. However, several states that joined in the anti-trust lawsuit must still approve the final settlement.
The agreement to settle the anti-trust case against Microsoft has been presented to a federal judge for review.
The proposed settlement places a broad range of restrictions on Microsoft and includes the establishment of an independent panel to monitor the company's conduct. As part of the deal, Microsoft will also help rival software makers develop competing products that will be compatible with the company's popular Windows operating system.
Details of the settlement were announced in Washington by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
"With the proposed settlement being announced today, the Department of Justice has fully and completely addressed the anti-competitive conduct that was outlined by the court of appeals against Microsoft," he said. "Through a broad range of disclosure and nondiscrimination and non-retaliatory and enforcement provisions, this proposed framework and this settlement not only resolves the department's competitive concerns but also does so in a quick and responsible manner."
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates says the settlement is fair and reasonable and will enable his company to continue to offer innovations to the marketplace. But he also said the deal goes further than Microsoft had wanted.
Industry experts predict that consumers could benefit in the wake of the settlement. Jonathan Baker is an expert on anti-trust issues at the American University here in Washington.
"Then we ought to see more competition for Windows emerging over time and the benefits to consumers then would either be in the form of lower prices or more or better innovation in Windows," Mr. Baker said.
But the deal must still be approved by 18 states that joined in the federal lawsuit against Microsoft. They have until Tuesday to review the settlement, and a lawyer for the group says his clients will be looking closely to ensure that it is a good agreement that can be enforced.