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May 13, 2002—In this issue:
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Microsoft Remedy Hearings Complete
- Cast Your Vote for our Readers' Choice Awards!
3. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
The Microsoft remedy hearings ended on a quiet note Friday after 8 weeks of often-contentious cross-examination, thousands of pages of written and oral testimony, and hundreds of pieces of evidence. A few formalities await Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, however, including a Microsoft motion to exclude new evidence that the nonsettling states presented during the hearings. But the big question revolves around how the often-inscrutable judge might rule in this case.
The stakes are high. A federal court found Microsoft guilty of sweeping antitrust violations 2 years ago and ordered Microsoft broken into two companies. However, a federal appeals court threw out the breakup decision and found that the original judge—Thomas Penfield Jackson—acted unprofessionally because of his obvious disdain for the company and its "arrogant" executives. But the appeals court upheld the guilty verdict and handed the case to a new judge who would devise new remedies.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) then severely narrowed its case against Microsoft when the agency abandoned its product-tying complaints and began settlement talks. In late November 2001, Microsoft and the DOJ announced that they had reached a tentative settlement. Nine of the 18 states that had joined the US government in its antitrust battle later endorsed the agreement. Nine other states and the District of Columbia—the so-called nonsettling states—refused to sign on, however, and launched their own legal battle against Microsoft, seeking stronger penalties than those the proposed settlement required.
And that's where the case gets interesting. Judge Kollar-Kotelly has many decisions to make. She can endorse the DOJ/Microsoft settlement or endorse the nonsettling states' remedy proposals (or some combination of the two, although each has some mutually exclusive agreements). Or, she can devise her own remedies based, in part, on both the DOJ's and nonsettling states' plans. Gauging how the judge will rule is impossible; her demeanor during 8 weeks of hearings gave no indication of which side she preferred. At times, she lashed out at the states' attorneys, but she also silenced many Microsoft objections about new evidence introductions. And let's not forget that a victory in these remedy hearings won't represent an overall Microsoft victory. The company is playing only for breadth of punishment in these hearings because the appeals court already unanimously upheld Microsoft's original guilty verdict. If Judge Kollar-Kotelly adopts any of the states' plans in addition to or in place of agreements from the proposed DOJ settlement, Microsoft must admit defeat.
For now the outcome is a guessing game. And your guess is as good as mine.
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