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Judge queries Netscape-AOL deal again

But seems to have changed his mind about it affecting the case

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In a rare intervention, Judge Jackson yesterday introduced his own exhibit - Court Exhibit 1 - which was a copy of a Washington Post article on Wednesday entitled "Knowing when not to compete". In it, AOL CEO Steve Case is quoted as saying in a recent interview that "AOL's merger with Netscape has no bearing on the Microsoft case, as nothing we're doing is competitive with Windows." Case denied that AOL/Netscape/Sun could or would develop an alternative OS to compete with Microsoft. Judge Jackson asked Professor Franklin Fisher, the DoJ's last witness: "Assuming these quotes are accurate, is this consistent with our understanding of what the impact of this consortium is likely to be, insofar as developing viable competition" for Microsoft. Fisher replied it was, and that "it wouldn't do anything to dislodge the Windows monopoly." So far, the only material issue on which Judge Jackson had appeared to favour Microsoft had been his tentative conclusion that the AOL/Netscape deal could change the nature of the competition against Microsoft dramatically. Jackson's decision to introduce the article as evidence strongly suggests that he has changed this opinion, and now has no detectable concerns about the DoJ case. A concerned Bill Neukom, speaking on the courthouse steps, noted dolefully that the rivals had said on 24 November that they would compete vigorously against Microsoft. Perhaps they still do - but in a rather more subtle way. Microsoft remains the darling of Wall Street, with its shares rising to $151.25, up $4.74, helped by financial analysts' bullish outlooks. Whether this news will dent this confidence will be seen later today. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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