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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 21:01 GMT 22:01 UK
Microsoft case sent back to court
Bill Gates by Windows logo
Bill Gates: back to court
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson

A US federal appeals court formally sent the Microsoft anti-trust case back to a lower court on Friday.

Shortly thereafter, the district court announced that Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had been chosen to hear the case. Judge Kollar-Kotelly was chosen at random by a computer system.

She will determine what punishment Microsoft should face for anti-trust violations.

The appeals court sent the case back to the district court after it rejected Microsoft's request last week to delay the case pending a Supreme Court decision on whether to hear the company's appeal.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson last year ordered the company to split in two for breaking anti-trust law.

Triumphant appeal

The company appealed the ruling, in part because they claimed that the judge was biased.

They pointed to comments he had made to reporters, including one in which the judge said that Bill Gates had a Napoleon complex.

The appeals court agreed with Judge Jackson that Microsoft had violated anti-trust law, but they did not support that break-up order.

And although they did not find the appearance of bias, they forcefully rebuked Judge Jackson for his public comments concerning the trial.

'Fair-minded jurist'

Judge Kollar-Kotelly has a reputation for being a fair and open-minded jurist, according to anti-trust expert Robert Lande.

She has a lot of trial experience, but he added she does not have a great deal of anti-trust experience.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly will have to decide whether it was illegal for Microsoft to integrate its Internet Explorer web browser with the Windows 98 operating system, and she will also be responsible for determining what penalties Microsoft should face.

There will be a discovery phase, depositions and remedy hearings, Mr Lande said, adding, "All this stuff takes time."

"I would be really surprised if there was a remedy ruling this calendar year," he said.

Windows XP approaches

The case returns to a lower court as Microsoft released the final code for a new version of its flagship product, the Windows operating system.

Manufacturers will now mass-produce the software, Windows XP, for distribution. The software is expected to hit store shelves in October.

Privacy groups and politicians have challenged the software giant to make changes to the software to address privacy and anti-trust concerns.

Politicians, Microsoft's competitors and some state attorneys general who have been involved in the landmark anti-trust suit claim that the software giant continues its anti-competitive practices with the release of Windows XP.

With the code finalised, changes are unlikely to the shipping product.

Settlement talks continue

Microsoft and the government have returned to the negotiating table.

But Mr Lande said that he is not optimistic for a settlement.

He pointed to several recent actions that Microsoft has taken including its response to critics of XP and said, "It looks like Microsoft is proceeding ahead as if there never had been an anti-trust case."

"If Microsoft continues to have this attitude, I don't see how they can settle," he said.

Microsoft's stock surged after news of the case returning to the lower court. Some analysts believe that a resolution in the case, even if Microsoft faces penalties, is better than continued operating uncertainty for the company.

See also:

29 Jun 01 | Business
Microsoft break-up ruling overturned
19 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Microsoft 'experiments' with XP
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