Attorneys general for more than a dozen U.S. states and the U.S. Department of Justice will file separate but similar suits against Microsoft Thursday around noon (ET) that are focused primarily on Windows 98, according to sources.
The separate actions, expected to be filed in Washington, will charge that Microsoft has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by illegally leveraging its leadership position in the desktop operating system arena as a way of expanding its presence into other areas.
The centre point in both cases will be the software giant's integration of the Internet Explorer Web browser into Windows 98 and the stringent licensing contracts Microsoft imposes on computer markers that limit their ability to customise the desktop interface of a fresh Windows PC.
The states and the DOJ have not decided when or whether it will request a preliminary injunction that would bar Microsoft from releasing Windows 98. Sources said such a request could be part of Thursday's action or filed separately next week by one or both parties.
In addition to these requests, sources close to the cases said that the DOJ may also announce plans to take additional action against Microsoft that is more broad-reaching.
One remedy that is likely to be asked for by both the states and the DOJ is that Microsoft be forced to remove from its licensing contracts the provision that computer markers must ship IE.
Instead, they will request that Microsoft be forced to offer OEMs and users the ability to choose whatever browser they wish, be it Microsoft's IE, Netscape's Navigator, or any other browser.
Neither the states nor the DOJ would comment on the pending legal actions against Microsoft.