Microsoft prepares final legal brief before appeal

Lawyers representing Microsoft Corporation prepared the company's final legal brief in its two year old antitrust trial Tuesday, a revised response to the government's proposal to break the company in half. And when that response is delivered as expected on Wednesday, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will issue his final ruling against the company, probably within days. Analysts expect Jackson's ruling to closely follow the government's recommendations, but Microsoft plans to appeal the ruling regardless of its scope. And depending on the process that follows, an appeal could take months or even years to determine the company's fate.

Like the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Microsoft isn't expected to release a final remedy proposal that differs sharply from its first effort. Jackson had asked for the DOJ to submit a revised proposal after suggesting that a three-way split suggested by a consumer group might make more sense than the DOJ's two-way breakup plan. But the DOJ's revised remedy proposal contained only a few small technical changes, sticking to the basic premise of its first effort.

And while some have questioned Jackson's decision to deny Microsoft more time to present an "offer of proof," which would have brought several more witnesses to the stand, including Bill Gates, the judge may simply be eager to see the case brought before another court. Microsoft would like to see the case continue with the Court of Appeals, which overturned an earlier Jackson ruling against Microsoft. But the DOJ may plead to have the case head straight to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would probably decide Microsoft's fate by the end of the year.

Microsoft says that it will post the new remedy response to its Web site Wednesday

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