Court appoints expert to study Windows code

A professor of computer science who is also the lead technical expert for the states in the antitrust case against software maker Microsoft Corp. was appointed late Wednesday to inspect Microsoft's Windows source code.

Lee A. Hollaar, a professor at the University of Utah's School of Computing, will lead the effort, along with other unnamed experts, to determine whether Microsoft is correct in its argument that it is technically impossible to ship a version of its operating system that doesn't come bundled with other applications, such as its Web browser or media player.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have asked the court to force Microsoft to ship a stripped-down version of its operating system as a remedy for its antitrust violations. Those states and the District of Columbia did not sign the proposed settlement between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and nine other states.

Microsoft balked at the demand, and the hold-out states have asked the U.S. District Court to have the code checked by an independent party to confirm whether it can be picked apart.

District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied the state's motion that asked the court to appoint a technical expert, instead handing the task to Hollaar, who has been an expert witness on several Microsoft court cases.

Hollaar was granted access to review the source code of Windows XP Home and Professional Editions during the mediation phase of the antitrust case when the DOJ, the 18 suing states and the District of Columbia attempted to work out a deal with Microsoft, the court order said.

Additionally, he was a lead technical expert in two private antitrust cases brought against Microsoft, one by software maker Caldera International Inc. and another by Bristol Technology Inc. During those cases, Hollaar had an opportunity to review the source code of Windows. His reviews are to remain confidential, bound by a protective order he signed in 1998.

Court records also show that Hollaar provided paid consulting services to the DOJ in 1995 in connection with a matter involving Microsoft.

Microsoft had previously fought Hollaar's participation in the antitrust case, arguing that the professor "has made something of a career of testifying against Microsoft," according to an October 2000 filing.

In addition to continued access to the Windows XP source code, Hollaar and other experts will be given a copy of the source code for Windows XP Embedded, a version of the operating system used in computing devices such as automated bank machines and slot machines.

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