|In what may be the latest turn to the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, USA Today reported today that the Justice Department was "refocused" on breaking Microsoft up after attempts to settle the case out of court had come to a standstill. The trial is actually still in progress with final arguments due to be delivered soon. According to USA Today:
After several failed attempts to settle a nasty antitrust battle out of court, the government is refocused on breaking up software giant Microsoft.
Senior officials at the Justice Department have approached at least two leading technology investment banks in recent days, requesting a detailed analysis of how best to break up the world's most valuable company - a complex study that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bankers at the two firms, who requested anonymity, said Justice officials wanted an assessment of where the logical breakup points of Microsoft were and a valuation of what the market reaction would be. Both firms declined, worried about the impact of siding with a Justice Department that they say is viewed in the business community as interventionist.
News that Justice is seriously considering breaking up Microsoft will take analysts by surprise because many believed only the states involved in the lawsuit were pushing for it.
"We have made preliminary inquiries to experts that might assist us in evaluating an array of remedy options if the court ultimately rules in our favor," says Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona. She said "it's premature" to discuss sanctions.
ZDNet in the meanwhile, reported that breakup reports were "premature." According to ZDNet:
Sources close to the landmark antitrust case indicated the report was overblown and that such inquiries were probably standard operating procedure for a case of this magnitude, not necessarily a sign that divvying up the software giant would be the preferred penalty Justice will seek.
CNBC, throughout their TV coverage of the markets today, were confident enough in the reports to cite them as part of the reason that Microsoft shares fell more than 3 points.
The Mac Observer Spin: There is not really anything to get too excited about, at least not yet. Note that both investment firms declined to help the justice department. Also, is very likely that these inquiries were simply "routine" as ZDNet referred to them. It is highly unlikely that there would be any real movement in this direction until the trial is over. Then there is the appeals process, and any number of further delays. There has been a lot of skepticism that anything will ever happen even if the Justice Department were to pursue a breakup.