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Judge: Microsoft's time is up

Stalling tactics won’t work

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has brushed aside Microsoft's pleas for more time to defend itself from government requests for the company to be split up.

The judge also sparred with Microsoft's attorneys, who tried to ward off a court-ordered breakup. Both sides appeared in what is scheduled as the last hearing to consider appropriate remedies in the case.

Jackson is expected to issue his final judgment in the case within weeks, or perhaps even days.

In the hearing, Jackson repeatedly clashed with Microsoft's lead trial counsel, John Warden, who asked for more time and new legal tools to rebut the government's request.

The judge's stance surprised observers, who widely expected Jackson to be mindful of the appeals court and give Microsoft at least some additional time to mount a defence against the breakup proposal.

Jackson noted his earlier findings that numerous Microsoft actions had thwarted competition and violated antitrust laws. The judge demanded to know what prior court decisions required the proof Warden said was necessary.

Most of Jackson's questions to government attorneys focused on why the government had not proposed a more far-reaching remedy. The Department of Justice and 17 state attorneys general suggest splitting the software giant into two companies, one for its Windows operating systems and one for applications.

"The effect of a bisection will in effect create two separate monopolies," Jackson observed. "Both of which are dominant and eminently profitable."

To bolster its case for a breakup, the government released two e-mail messages from Bill Gates, then Microsoft's chief executive officer and still its chair. In a 1998 message, Gates discussed competition by Symbian in mobile phone software. Symbian planned to use Java and other Sun Microsystems technology in its mobile phone software.

That would be "just declaring war on us," Gates said. If Symbian proceeded, "we should do the most extreme things we can. This may mean not working with them in some other areas," he added.

In a 1999 message, Gates discussed Microsoft's plan to compete with Palm. After meeting with the Nokia officials, Gates suggested Microsoft could retool Office to work better with Microsoft products than with Palm.

"We really need to demonstrate to [companies] like Nokia why our PDA will connect to Office in a better way than other PDAs, even if that means changing how we do flexible schema in Outlook and how we tie some of our audio and video advanced work to run only on our PDAs," Gates wrote.

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