US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled yesterday that Microsoft has clearly broken the law and harmed consumers.

The ruling came in penultimate phase of the antitrust case bought by the US government against Microsoft, the company intends making an appeal.

Assistant US Attorney General Joel Klein said: "I think it is a very strong opinion in the critical areas of monopolization and attempt to monopolize." He urged all Americans to read Jackson's opinion and give it "their careful attention". The DOJ has posted the judge's conclusions of law issued today on its Web site.

Settlement still on Asked about the possibility of a settlement, Klein said: "As we have said all along, the department is always prepared to settle so long as the remedy deals with the legal violations which have now been fully established by the court." He continued: "On those terms, we are glad to engage in a settlement."

He said the DOJ will seek a strong and effective remedy. He added: "These violations occurred shortly after Microsoft entered a consent decree with the department some five years ago, and I believe it is appropriate to have a remedy that ensures that we not have this continued pattern of antitrust violence."

Over the course of the antitrust case, the DOJ's work with its partners in bringing the lawsuit, the 19 US state attorneys general, was "constructive and very professional". The two parties have seen eye-to-eye on most matters, but Klein acknowledged that there had been some disagreements. However, the DOJ and the state attorneys general intend to go forward "with a consistent view", he said.

Different but the same Tom Miller, attorney general of Iowa, said the DOJ and the US states have agreed on the antitrust litigation against Microsoft at each crucial stage. However, he added the different parties "have discussions where we don't agree on every point". Reports circulated over the weekend that the attorneys general insisted on breaking up Microsoft and thereby doomed settlement talks.

The DOJ and the US states share the same goal of putting competition back into the IT industry, Miller said.

Won’t take it lying down During a press conference following the ruling, Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, said: "While we did everything we could to settle this case and will look for continued opportunities to resolve it, we believe we will have a strong case on appeal,"

Bill Neukom, Microsoft's executive vice president for law and corporate affairs, said that Microsoft would appeal its case to a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This will examine each aspect of the trial's proceedings including the procedure, the facts presented, and the conclusions of law issued yesterday.

Regarding Microsoft’s appeal, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, said: "The judge has put Microsoft in a bind. They are left with a remote chance on appeal."