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Judge finds Windows 2000 may slip a millennium

Courts ruling you probably can't make your ship dates? Surely the ultimate humiliation...

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Judge Janet Hall is of the opinion that NT 5.0 (aka Windows 2000) won't make it out of the door before the end of this year. And with a bit of luck, it'll slip into the next millennium. The Register believes this may be the first instance of a judge ruling on the viability of Microsoft's rollout schedules. Exquisitely, Judge Hall's ruling on Bristol Technology's application for a preliminary injunction (Earlier Story) hinges to some considerable extent on the date Microsoft manages to ship Windows 2000. In her judgement she says: "There is conflicting evidence regarding the release date. It is the conclusion of this court that at this time, the release date is likely to be toward the end of 1999." So Q4 is achievable. But not definite: "Because of its finding of irreparable harm, the court sets the case down for trial commencing on June 1, 1999, in order to attempt to retain this court's ability to render a meaningful judgement should Bristol prevail and should the release date for NT 5 be later than this court now expects." (Our italics) From the text of the judgement it's clear that Judge Hall thinks that if Bristol doesn't get access to Windows 2000 source code six to eight months in advance of the release date, the company is finished. Its source code contracts with Microsoft expired in 1997, and didn't cover NT 4.0 or NT 5.0/Win2K, and if it doesn't get access to these, it will be unable to develop a new version of its Wind/U product. Microsoft's claims that Bristol hasn't been harmed, or that the harm was self-inflicted, receive short shrift from the judge: "Microsoft argues that there can be no irreparable harm because Bristol has large cash reserves ($4 million). Thus, Microsoft claims, there is no threat of Bristol's going out of business. This argument misses the essence of the harm here." Redmond's notion that a marooned former partner will be OK because it can always spend the pennies it's saved up is certainly treasurable. "Further," she says, "Bristol has demonstrated that it will clearly suffer significant if not complete loss of goodwill if it does not obtain the NT 5 source code immediately." The source code terms Microsoft has offered to Bristol however don't seem viable. Microsoft has offered a cut-down version of the source combined with a 400 per cent increase in licensing fees, and the judge says of them: "The offered terms have an anticompetitive intent and effect." In her view "Bristol is more likely than not to succeed" in its claim, so why then did she fail to grant Bristol access to the source? Her judgement is basically favourable to Bristol in that it concludes the company probably has the ability to demonstrate harm and anticompetitive activity, but says that Bristol has not done so yet. In order to qualify for injunctive relief, Bristol would have had to have demonstrated "a clear showing of likelihood of success." It's a fairly narrow matter, which is where that possible slippage of Windows 2000 would come in useful. If Judge Hall cracks through the trial quickly in June, and finds against Microsoft, she can force the release of Windows 2000 source in time for shipment in Q1 2000. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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