Minnesota vs. Microsoft Heads to Court

   Microsoft will head to court this week to defend itself against accusations that it overcharged Minnesota consumers for Windows and various Microsoft Office products. The state's antitrust-related charges stem from the guilty verdict in Microsoft's US antitrust trial. Although Microsoft has settled most of the private class-action lawsuits that numerous parties brought against it, the Minnesota case is one of four the company hasn't been able to resolve. The other unresolved cases are in Arizona, Iowa, and New Mexico. The Minnesota case is the first to actually go to trial, however.
   The Minnesota case is also unique because it involves two classes--one for Windows and one for the Office applications. For each class, Minnesota claims that Microsoft overcharged consumers by $10 to $70 per product (depending on the product) and is seeking $283 million to $425 million in damages. Microsoft denies that it has overcharged consumers.
   "In other states we were able to reach settlements that were reasonable, and we were simply not able to do that here and therefore are going to trial," a Microsoft representative said. "This is a case that deals with the question of whether or not Microsoft engaged in anticompetitive conduct and, if so, whether or not it overcharged customers." The trial is expected to last about 3 months.
   Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer are on Microsoft's witness list. Although neither executive appeared live during the company's epic antitrust battle against the US government and several states, both executives recorded videotape depositions for that trial. Calling Gates and Ballmer to the stand would be an unprecedented move, but the fact that they're on the witness list doesn't necessarily mean they'll appear in Minnesota vs. Microsoft. "Not all these witnesses will be called," a Microsoft representative said. "The decision on who will be called will be made during the proceedings." Microsoft has compiled a list of 35 potential witnesses, including Gates and Ballmer.

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