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were little changed Wednesday following reports that the company would be willing to accept certain restrictions on its business as a means of avoiding a more damaging regulatory breakup of its business.

The statement reportedly came from an email sent to lawmakers' offices Friday which stated that the software giant feels that a breakup would amount to a "regulatory death sentence," and that it hopes to reach a "common-sense settlement" for the government's antitrust case.

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Many industry watchers feel that a common-sense settlement would probably amount to restrictions on its business practices.

Analysts were indifferent to the news, saying that the investment community has long been aware that the negotiations will probably involve some degree of concession by Microsoft.

Investors were also unfazed. Microsoft stock was little changed in midday trading Wednesday, down 7/16 at 98 1/8. (Microsoft closed down 15/16, or 0.95%, at 97 5/8.)

Jim Cullinan, a spokesperson for Microsoft, would not confirm any email to lawmakers, but noted that the company "has always stated that any suggestion of a breakup is extreme and unwarranted."

"Any such move would be bad for the economy, bad for the industry and bad for consumers," he said, adding that the company is trying to reach a "fair solution" in the settlement.

Throughout the case, Microsoft has argued that it isn't a monopoly and shouldn't be subject to any restrictions on its conduct. But as settlement talks wind up in Chicago, the company could be softening its brash defensive stance in hopes of concluding the case in one piece.

Both sides are slated to return to federal court in Chicago Feb. 22 for closing arguments next week in front of federal appeals court judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.