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MS, DoJ wrangle jointly over schedule, size of noose

A conclusion before 2003? Don't count on it...

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Microsoft and the Department of Justice have filed their "Joint" (but largely separate) Status Report detailing two wildly divergent plans for the future conduct of the case. From the DoJ's point of view it's all largely done and dusted, so we can move to proposed remedies by 9th November and a full evidentiary hearing on 4th February; but from Microsoft's point of view it could take, well maybe six months for it to prepare its defence, if the judge doesn't limit the scope of the remedies the DoJ pitches for.

The document is essentially two rival documents, and switches dizzingly between the two from section to section. As you might have expected, there is virtually no common ground between the two parties.

Although it has abandoned break-up and tying, the DoJ is still aiming for tough action against Microsoft. It will seek injunctive relief, and maintains that something based on Judge Jackson's original plans, with some tweaking up in consideration of the fact that issues intended to be tackled by break-up have to be dealt with in other ways. It also wants a speedy discovery period to garner evidence regarding all of Microsoft's post-trial activities.

Microsoft, on the other hand, sees both of these as considerably widening (and therefore, whew, lengthening) the scope of the case. It wants to argue against this first, and has two proposed schedules depending on whether or not the judge agrees with it. The six months, since you ask, is just one component of the full timeline for the lengthier one, but the short one's pretty long as well. If Microsoft has its way, the trial will grind on into the second half of 2002, and actually even if it doesn't have its way we've a long road to travel still.

Thought: if Microsoft is too successful in stretching the proceedings, isn't there a danger it'll fall victim to the next incoming Democrat administration?

The two parties do agree that the evidentiary hearings should take the form of a kind of mini-trial, which is actually what Microsoft wanted but didn't get at the beginning of this year. There'll be a set number of witnesses and a fixed time allotted for them, but of course there'll be plenty scope for slippage and delays. Given that His Billness apparently regretted (once the coast was clear) that he didn't take the stand and save the company's case last time, we look forward to his presence on the Redmond roster in February. Or August. ®

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