- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

A hearing that could represent the final courtroom battle in the epic antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. begins today.
Nine states and the District of Columbia will try to persuade a federal judge to levy strict new penalties against the Redmond, Wash., software company, found guilty last June by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia of acting illegally to maintain a monopoly in the market for personal computer operating systems.
Microsoft already has agreed to some changes in the way it licenses its software.
The company, the Justice Department and a group of states asked U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on March 6 to approve sanctions against the company. The sanctions include preventing it from retaliating against computer makers that use non-Microsoft products and requiring it to disclose some software blueprints so software developers can design programs that work in tandem with the Windows operating system.
But Microsoft still faces the possibility of significant changes in the way it does business.
That is because a clutch of states California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia and the District feel the restrictions endorsed by the Justice Department are not punitive enough and won't restore competition to the software marketplace.
"There will be some fireworks associated with the litigating states' case," said George Priest, professor of law and economics at Yale Law School.
Led by attorney Brendan Sullivan, nine states and the District will ask the court to force Microsoft to:
Market a version of Windows that does not include software for Web browser Internet Explorer, media player, instant messaging or other popular products;
Release the software code for Internet Explorer;
cDistribute free of charge a version of the Java programming language, produced by rival Sun Microsystems, that is compatible with Windows.
Microsoft's response will revolve around the argument that the penalties the states are seeking are too broad in light of the court of appeals decision that it acted illegally to maintain its Windows monopoly.
"This hearing needs to be about what was found by the court of appeals," Microsoft spokesman Jim Deslar said.
Not only will Microsoft argue that the states are legally out of bounds in asking for restrictions on anything more than its operating system business, its corporate officials will testify that some of the states' demands simply can't be met.
Microsoft says its operating system and Internet Explorer are so intertwined they can't be separated.
Jim Allchin, a Microsoft corporate vice president, said in a deposition released two weeks ago the company has "no way" to remove the browser from the operating system. Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said in his deposition there is no business or consumer demand for a stripped-down version of Windows.
Mr. Priest said the states will have difficulty wangling more sanctions from Microsoft if Judge Kollar-Kotelly approves the proposed settlement drafted by the Justice Department.
"I see no reason to doubt she will approve the Justice Department settlement, and if she does, it's hard to add punitive measures," Mr. Priest said.
The judge said she will take her time deciding whether to accept the federal government's proposed settlement, reject it or urge parties to make changes that address concerns of the group's that criticized the plan.

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