Windows 98, Antitrust Suits on Hold

In dramatic last-minute settlement talks with the U.S. Department of Justice, Microsoft Corp. agreed to put off shipment of Windows 98 until Monday, and confirmed that antitrust lawsuits expected to be filed against the software giant today are also on hold.

In a brief press announcement, Microsoft said the truce was struck with the Department of Justice and a coalition of state attorneys general so that discussions with the government could continue.

The company said that delaying shipment of Windows 98 to PC manufacturers would not affect the commercial launch of the software which is scheduled to reach consumers on June 25.

The Department of Justice posted an announcement on its Web site today confirming that settlement talks were ongoing and that shipment of Windows 98 would be pushed forward. The DOJ also confirmed that no lawsuits would be filed while discussions were proceeding.

The news follows the cancellation of a press conference scheduled for earlier today in which up to 20 state attorneys general were expected to file a 50-page suit in U.S. District Court.

The Justice Department and states have charged that Microsoft employs unfair monopoly practices in the software market, most notably in the Internet browser arena.

CNBC reported today that the settlement talks are scheduled to continue tomorrow when Microsoft lawyers fly to Washington, DC from the company’s Redmond, WA headquarters. State attorneys general were said to have left the Department of Justice earlier this afternoon in anticipation of those talks.

Industry speculation is already surfacing about the kinds of concessions that may be on the table for Microsoft during negotiations with the government.

Some experts say that the company may even agree to include Netscape’s Navigator browser with the Windows operating system in an effort to level the Internet playing field.

Microsoft and the Justice Department are expected to continue discussions through the weekend.

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