The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and state attorneys general told Microsoft yesterday that they will not break the software monopoly in two when the antitrust case returns to the US District Court.

The plaintiffs announced they would not pursue a rehearing of the claim that Microsoft illegally tied the Windows operating system to its Internet Explorer browser software.

The plaintiffs will seek an order limiting Microsoft's conduct, rather than urging the company be split into separate operating system and applications businesses - an order from the District Court during an earlier phase of the case.

Appeal The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the break-up order on appeal, handing it back down to the lower court for reconsideration. The DOJ has taken the lead in the antitrust case, in which 18 states are also plaintiffs.

Tom Miller, attorney general of Iowa, said: "Since the court of appeals decision, the states and the DOJ have directed their efforts to one objective - the quickest and the most effective remedy possible. This decision is consistent with that objective." The DOJ "is taking these steps in an effort to obtain prompt, effective and certain relief for consumers", according to the DOJ's statement.

The court will also be asked by the plaintiffs for time to investigate recent industry developments, to evaluate whether changes in the market have made additional conduct restrictions necessary, according to the DOJ. The lower court initially ordered both conduct and structural remedies. One conduct remedy for instance, called for less restrictive licensing practices.

It isn't immediately clear if efforts to expedite the case's resolution are speeding up settlement negotiations between the plaintiffs and Microsoft. Jim Desler, a spokesman for Microsoft, said: "We remain committed to resolving the remaining issues in this case." He refused to say whether this meant the two sides were closer to settlement talks.