Updated from 6:21 p.m. EST
The government's antitrust case against
appeared to be nearing its conclusion Friday, but investors showed little reaction to reports that the threat of an imminent ruling had pushed Microsoft to make a settlement offer.
Microsoft sent government lawyers a formal, written settlement proposal Friday that would restrain some of the company's business practices, according to
and other news organizations.
Although the specific details of the proposal were not available,
The New York Times
reported on its Web site Friday evening that one official said Microsoft "appears to have come a long way with this, but not as far as I think they should."
The Times said lawyers for the
and 19 state attorneys general were trying to decide whether Microsoft's proposal was serious enough to warrant crash negotiations over the weekend.
Lawyers for both sides had been expected to meet in Chicago with Judge Richard Posner, the court-appointed mediator in the case.
The move by Microsoft came as
reported that Federal Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who is presiding over the case, is threatening to make a final ruling in the case on Tuesday if the two sides don't show progress toward a settlement.
Jackson had issued a scathing description of Microsoft's business activities in his findings of facts in the case, saying it had used its monopoly power with the Windows operating system to stifle its competition. The harsh words left little doubt that Jackson would rule against the company if a settlement could not be reached.
Under the mounting threat of such a ruling, Microsoft reportedly indicated earlier this week that it would be willing to accept some restrictions on its business to reach a settlement, causing its stock to soar by 11%.
In recent months, the timing and direction of the company's stock price movements have been largely dictated by developments in the case. But investors seemed indifferent to the barrage of reports Friday indicating that the negotiations were coming to a head. Microsoft's slipped 3/16 Friday to close at 111 11/16.
Neither Microsoft nor the Justice Department would comment on any settlement, meetings or any other details of the case.
A settlement could allow both Microsoft and the Justice Department to save face if, as some analysts expect, it mandates nothing beyond controls on the company's marketing practices. Microsoft would then escape more ominous fates, such as a breakup of the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
A settlement could include the opening of the Windows operating system source code for competitors to view while designing applications, accepting regulatory oversight or a combination of the two.