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MS on Trial It's defenestration day in Redmond today. A clearly stunned Microsoft did what it could to pretend that Judge Jackson's findings of fact were "just one step", as Gates put said in the prepared statement that he read at a press conference last night, but it was hopeless. There were 412 paragraphs of dense argument in Judge Jackson's findings of fact, and it would be generous to say that two-and-a-half of them had even a crumb of comfort for Microsoft. Gates was able to get the Microsoft interpretation of the crumbs of comfort into one sentence: "The court's findings do acknowledge that Microsoft's actions accelerated the development of the Internet [Judge Jackson did not use this phrase], reduced the cost to consumers [actually it was 'at no additional cost to consumers'] and improved the quality of Web-browsing software." Gates's statement was just a crafted PR piece: "we respectfully disagree with a number of the court's findings and believe the American legal system will affirm that Microsoft's actions and innovations were fair and legal... tremendous benefits to millions... guided by the most basic values - innovation, integrity, partnership, quality and giving back to the community [the charity card is played]." Gates was asked about the effect on the stock. He claimed that Microsoft was not a prognosticator, but the share price fell sharply after hours, having risen around $1.50 earlier. When asked how he was feeling, Gates didn't reply but said he had just come back from one of his think weeks. He probably did have quite a bit to think about. Bill Neukom, Microsoft's general counsel, claimed that "the law is on Microsoft's side". He would not be drawn on what might happen, since the case "was not at the end of the legal process". "Microsoft does not live the quiet life of a monopolist" he claimed, but the relevance of the remark was lost. It was most unwise for him to claim that Microsoft was "constantly lowering pricing" in view of the steady increase in Windows prices (Click here for the latest). Neukom made it clear that if Judge Jackson's final word was against Microsoft (and this can hardly be in doubt), then Microsoft would seek an expedited appeal. It was unlikely that the appellate court would take less than a year to review the record and the correctness of the law, he said. A further appeal to the supreme court was also an option. Judge Jackson issued a scheduling order, and clearly wants the case to move to its conclusion as quickly as possible. The DoJ has until 6 December to produce a memorandum on the law, and Microsoft must respond by 17 January. The DoJ may then reply to this by 24 January, and Microsoft may make a sur-reply by 31 January. The judge specifically ordered that the parties shall not address the subject of relief, if warranted. It is not yet known whether there will be an oral hearing on the findings of law, but Neukom indicated that Microsoft would like this. This is likely to be discussed in a conference with the judge. Perhaps around April, Judge Jackson would issue his findings of law. The final stage would then be about possible remedies, but it is not yet clear what form this would take, so timing questions are very difficult. A reasonable guess would be that the case could be concluded by October 2000 in the District Court. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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