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Gates Confirms Settlement Talks

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates confirmed Wednesday that Microsoft (MSFT) is in "ongoing discussions" with the Justice Department over settlement of the government's antitrust suit.

"We'd like nothing better than to put this behind us," he said at the Schroder/Variety "Big Picture" media conference in New York on Wednesday.

But Microsoft must still have the ability to "innovate" in its Windows operating system, he added. "We've got to maintain our pace, because if we slow down there are a lot of people who would like to take our place."

He pointed to Netscape as proof there are no barriers to entering the industry. In an interview with Sir David Frost at the conference, Gates said, "There are ongoing discussions and I won't speculate as to the probabilities or anything, but I hope it does get settled" referring to a possible settlement.

Gates talked about everything from his family to the shape of technology to come. He pointed to the financial-services industry as the next sector to be affected by the Internet.

Shares of Microsoft were down 1/16 at 166 1/2 in trading Wednesday afternoon.

In other company news:

  • Microsoft said Wednesday that more than 1 million people have downloaded the company's new Internet browser.

    Internet Explorer 5.0, which launched last week, is the latest effort to dislodge pioneer Netscape (NSCP) from the top spot in the browser market. Microsoft said in a press release that downloads of Internet Explorer 5 during the "opening weekend" more than tripled those of the previous record-setting Internet Explorer 4.0.

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