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Is Microsoft Ready To Settle?

Microsoft Corp. stock rose Tuesday on optimism the company would settle government antitrust charges during the current six-week trial recess, industry analysts said.

Microsoft was up 4 1/4 at 163 1/4 in very heavy trading after the Seattle Times reported that the company and the government were exploring ways to settle the lawsuit before it resumes next month. The settlement talk was also fueled by Intel Corp.'s tentative deal settling antitrust charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission.

In other company developments Tuesday, Microsoft signed a deal to form an Internet alliance with Hongkong Telecom, the city's biggest phone company. The new deal will among other things be a conduit for home entertainment.

The service, part of Gate's goal to break into China's market, will be aimed at Hong Kong-based personal computer users such as students, private consumers, and businesses, will bring together PCs and telecommunications technologies. Hong Kong PC users will be able to watch movies and interactive video games from their homes.

Customers will rent software which they can download from the Internet. Businesses, meanwhile, will be able to use the service for video conferencing and training on demand, while students will be able to plug into lectures and chat lines.

"Microsoft (MSFT) is excited to expedite the convergence of PC, TV and telecommunications telecommunications technologies with Hongkong Telecom," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said at Tuesday's launch.

The two companies plan to begin trials within weeks and launch the service commercially this year. The group did not release any financial details.

The latest deal diversifies Microsoft's distribution method. It recently bought stakes in Comast Corp and other cable television networks. While cable networks rely on co-axial cables, HongKong Telecom transmits data and other information with a combination of two-way copper and optical fiber telephone lines.

The Hong Kong agreement is the first of several which Microsoft is expected to unveil this week in Asia. Gates will visit Japan as well as the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The Hong Kong Service will be offered through Hongkong Telecom's broadband telephone network, one of the world's most extensive. Microsoft will provide its asynchronous transfer mode technology for high-speed transmission.