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Does a breakup make sense Everyone knew that the government had mounted a strong case in US vs Microsoft But nobody expect a complete rout Yet when US District Judge Thomas P Jackson released his finding of facts on Nov 5 he handed state and federal prosecutors an unambiguous triumph Declaring that Microsoft routinely used its monopoly power to crush competitors he portrayed the software giant as nothing less than a social menace Jacksons fact-findings were so critical of the company that theyve raised the stakes in this battle Suddenly the breakup of Microsoft is a real possibility If you had asked me how likely a breakup of Microsoft was six months ago I would have said 10 says Robert E Litan an antitrust expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC Now I say its 50 The last time the government broke up a major company was in1982 when it worked with a cooperative ATT to disband the old Bell system That breakup is generally considered a success But many Silicon Valley competitors are reluctant to back divestiture Breaking them up is not the right answer says Benchmark Capital partner David Beirne a key backer of Red Hat Software Inc which makes a Linux based operating system that competes with Windows Microsoft president Steven A Ballmer in an interview with BUSINESS WEEK also insisted that the company would be happy to resolve this as quickly as possible But he added We arent going to compromise on the principle of the freedom to innovate In other words the Feds cant tell Microsoft what to put in its products The main argument for divestiture is that Microsoft has so much power and is so innately aggressive that nothing else will keep the company from unfairly preying on rivals If the government tries to break Microsoft up there are four structural remedies Horizontal breakup Breaking Microsoft into three companies---one with operating systems another with applications
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