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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Microsoft judge speeds up hearings
Bill Gates by Windows logo
Microsoft's hopes to drag out the trial look shaky
The new judge presiding over the US government's anti-trust case against Microsoft has backed a call from the Department of Justice to speed up proceedings.

District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who was appointed by random selection earlier in August, has ordered the two sides to report by 14 September on what issues remain outstanding.

They must then meet her at 1330 GMT on 21 September to talk about the status of the case.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Justice Department asked for a meeting within 10 days, citing "the strong public interest in a prompt and orderly resolution of the remaining issues" in the case.

"We look forward to resolving the remaining issues in this case and will work with the government to respond to the court's order," Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said.

New Mexico withdrawal

Shortly after the June appeals court ruling - which rejected a district court judge's conclusion that Microsoft should be broken up - company chairman Bill Gates said he was interested in pursuing an out of court settlement.

The following month, New Mexico withdrew from the action after Microsoft offered to pay the state's legal costs.

Since then however, there has been little sign of progress in reaching a settlement.

Seventeen states and the US government remain ranged against the software giant.

Two strikes

The move by the new district court judge marks the second time in less than a month that Microsoft's efforts to delay a final resolution to the case have been blocked.

On 24 August, a US federal appeals court formally sent the Microsoft anti-trust case back to a lower court.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson
Jackson: Gates had a "Napoleon complex"

Microsoft had wanted the case delayed while the Supreme Court decided whether to hear Microsoft's appeal.

Microsoft already stands convicted of illegally using its market power to squash competition to its Windows operating system and Office applications software.

The previous district court judge, Thomas Penfield Jackson, ruled that the company should be broken into two.

The company failed in its attempt to have the appeals court throw out the case.

'Megalomaniac tendencies'

But its claim that the punishment ruling was affected by bias - Judge Jackson had given media interviews after the trial in which he said the company, and its founder Bill Gates, had megalomaniac tendencies - was successful.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly therefore has the job of revisiting the question of what punishment Microsoft should suffer.

She must also determine whether Microsoft's tight integration of its internet browser, Explorer, into its Windows operating system was also against anti-trust law.

XP on track

The new speed is still unlikely to get in the way of the launch of the new version of Windows.

Windows XP, as it is known, is due to hit the shops on 25 October.

Its impending release has already triggered yet more legal action, as several pressure groups - along with a handful of national politicians - say it raises privacy problems.

And senior lawyers for a number of US states are insisting that XP not only replicates but deepens many of the aspects of Windows which led to the antitrust violations in the first place.

More and more functions is being included in XP, much of it Microsoft versions of music, audio-video and CD burning software which the lawyers say could shut out the competition.

See also:

24 Aug 01 | Business
Microsoft case sent back to court
19 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Microsoft 'experiments' with XP
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