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DoJ stiffs Gates one last time as trial closes

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MS on Trial Everyone seems to have performed as expected during the Microsoft antitrust trial closing arguments yesterday. The DoJ said Microsoft was an anti-competitive monopoly, Microsoft's attorneys and courtroom steps spin doctor said the DoJ hadn't proved its case, and the judge... Well, some people had been hoping Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson would enliven proceedings with a couple of his interjections, but he sat there, largely silent. The battle-lines were drawn up months ago, prosecution and defence have shot-off all their ammunition already, and the judge most likely knew everything he wanted to know before yesterday's proceedings drew a line (spin doctoring permitting) under this phase of the affair. DoJ attorney David Boies did however contrive to inject some reruns of BillTV. Three clips from Gates' video deposition, which will go down in history as one of the great US legal catastrophes, were played. Bill, in between squirms and evasions, insisted that in 1995 Netscape wasn't a threat to Microsoft. Boies then reprised the large stack of internal documentation that showed that the company, from Bill down, thought Netscape a very real threat then, and was taking steps to neutralise it. "Microsoft was seeking to preserve its operating system by eliminating the threat that you could have application browsers ... that could then be readily used in other operating systems," said Boise. It's worth noting that although Microsoft has been pretty successful in the browser wars campaigns that followed its 1995 moves, the notion of the 'application browser' hasn't gone away. The reverse, in fact. In response, the MS defence went for the theatricals gambit. Lead attorney John Warner described the DoJ case as melodrama, and said the evidence consisted of "red herrings, misstatements and omissions." An uncharitable Register might here observe that many of these omissions were caused by Microsoft and its pals at Compaq and elsewhere moving heaven and earth to keep the smutty bits out of the public documentation, but we won't. Now, Judge Jackson is alone with his thoughts. He's expected to come up with his initial ruling on findings of fact (i.e., whether or not MS dunnit) in the next two months. At that point, if he (as widely expected) concludes MS did dunnit, we can expect a frenzied negotiation period as Redmond tries to cut a deal before he produces his final conclusions, penalties and all. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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