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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 15:37 GMT
Microsoft told to open Windows
circuit board and binary code, Eyewire
Microsoft has been ordered to hand over core computer code for its Windows software to lawyers it will soon face in court.

A US judge has told the software giant that its legal opponents should have the right to verify Microsoft's claims about the innards of the flagship software.

Currently nine US states are using the courts to try and impose tougher penalties on Microsoft for its flouting of antitrust laws.

Microsoft is trying to avoid handing over the code, claiming that there is not enough time before hearings are due to start.

Slimline software

Last week US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly told Microsoft to make the source code for Windows available to lawyers acting for nine US states who want the software maker to compete more fairly with its rivals.

The nine states are seeking to make Microsoft produce a stripped-down version of Windows free of add-ons such as the Internet Explorer web browser.

During the antitrust trial brought by the US Department of Justice the fact that Microsoft was including these extras in Windows was taken as evidence that it was abusing dominance to boost the success of its other products.

The stripped down Windows would be given to Microsoft's rivals to let them produce their own version with their own add-ons.

But Microsoft claims that producing a slimline version of Windows is impossible.

Windows XP box, PA
Windows XP's inner workings could be exposed by a court order
The judge overseeing the case, which goes to court on 6 March, said the source code for Windows must be handed over so Microsoft's claim of impossibility can be verified.

"It seems to me that if your side has access to it, then the other side, frankly, should have access to it," said the judge in a conference call to lawyers from both sides.

If forced to comply Microsoft would have to hand over the latest source code for Windows, including a version designed to control chips embedded in such things as cars.

When programmers create software, they write an often huge list of instructions which another program then turns into the finished product.

Source code for products like Windows runs into millions of lines.

The nine states pushing to see Windows source code are those that refused to sign up to the settlement brokered by the US Department of Justice in November 2001.

That settlement sought to force Microsoft to deal more fairly with its rivals, but it stopped short of making any changes to Windows.

Independently of Microsoft, an Australian company has produced software called 98lite that strips parts of Windows 98 many people are happier without.


The settlement

Appeal court ruling

Appeal hearing

Analysis
See also:

02 Nov 01 | Business
02 Nov 01 | Business
16 Feb 02 | Business
31 Dec 01 | Business
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