The Microsoft Deal

The deal forged by the US Justice Department and Microsoft to end a decade-long antitrust case will win few cheers. The company, twice found to be guilty of monopolistic practices, isn't even forced to publicly admit its guilt.

It can still bundle its own products into its Windows operating system, which runs 95 percent of the world's personal computers. Microsoft's dominance is likely to persist.

But the deal, if it wins final approval, should force the software giant to behave with a bit more civility. Importantly, the agreement commits the company to sharing at least a portion of its Windows code with competitors, so that they can design products that run more smoothly with that system. It forces Microsoft to be more evenhanded in its pricing of Windows to computermakers. It bans retaliatory moves by Microsoft against competitors.

The deal also sets up a three-person committee to oversee the company's compliance with these measures, which are to remain in effect for five years. The genuine independence of this body, which Microsoft will have a hand in appointing, could prove crucial to making the deal work as it should.

Critics worry that this is far from enough to effectively curb Microsoft's monopolistic inclinations. The states that had joined the federal lawsuit, plus the European Commission, still have to weigh in on the deal.

It's not an ideal solution, but that was elusive in this complicated case. The needed outcome is a Microsoft that has learned a hard lesson and will now operate with greater respect for competition and fairness.

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