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Knoxville — A federal judge has ruled against computer software giant Microsoft, Inc., saying the company violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by tying its web browser to its Windows operating system.

A University of Tennessee law professor said the decision will impact business and legal arenas.

“There’s some talk of breaking up Microsoft,” said Glenn Reynolds. “The precedent with the AT&T case suggests that Microsoft shareholders could benefit from that.”

“AT&T turned out to be worth more broken up than put together, and that could be true for Microsoft, as well,” said Reynolds.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that Microsoft illegally tied its Internet Explorer web browser to its Windows operating system, damaging rivals Netscape and Sun Microsystems.

Reynolds said another issue is the extent to which anti-trust law and the judicial system can effectively deal with these cases.

“The kinds of questions addressed in the Microsoft trial are absolutely ancient history now, the ‘browser wars’ and things like that,” Reynolds said.

“I think that raises some real questions as to whether anti-trust laws are capable of dealing with this sort of thing, or whether it’s always going to be playing Monday-morning quarterback.”