Microsoft, DOJ to appear before Judge this week

Microsoft's remedy plan won no respect last week from the government, which called the self-imposed restrictions "cosmetic" and incapable of undoing the harm caused by the company's business practices, in the latest brief filed in federal court. But the real battle begins this week, when both sides appear before US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to begin oral arguments over remedies.

Jackson, who has ruled that Microsoft violated antitrust law, set Wednesday as the first hearing date in the remedy process. Microsoft wants delays in order to prepare witnesses and evidence to reject the government's proposed breakup of the company, separating its applications from its operating systems business.

Microsoft says it needs months to defend itself; the government wants the remedy phase wrapped up in a matter of weeks. Jackson may decide that issue this week.

For the most part, end users don't support the government's plan to split Microsoft into two companies, according to a Computerworld US poll of information technology professionals.

Only 23% of those surveyed last week favoured the government's proposal to separate Microsoft's operating system business from its applications business, while 48% favored Microsoft's counterremedy, according to a survey of 104 IT managers at companies of more than 500 employees. The remainder were split among a variety of other options.

Sam Gius, information systems director at Foster Electric America, an Illinois-based manufacturer of speakers for automobiles, is among those who support a breakup.

"Just putting restrictions on how you do things leaves too many holes - who is going to police it?" said Gius.

Microsoft has offered to release technical information and interfaces to independent developers in a timely manner, as well as to allow PC makers to make a non-Microsoft browser the default browser. It would also make older versions of Windows available at no increase in royalties.

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