Microsoft chief operating officer and executive vice president, Bob Herbold, hinted yesterday that Microsoft might have to close the firm down if Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's verdict is upheld.

The Microsoft COO doesn't want to speculate on a bad ending to the trial because that could mean the end of the software company, he hinted. "We trust that we will win this case on appeal," Herbold said.

"We cannot work with this verdict," Herbold said during a reception in Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond following the introduction of its .NET platform, formerly known as Next Generation Windows Services.

"It says that 85 percent of our staff have to sign a declaration that they have read the verdict. If they consequently do something against the rules they can be prosecuted. The verdict says that we have to give access to our source codes to anybody who questions our product. They can come in and copy it," he protested.

Herbold repeated that Microsoft doesn't have any contingency plans in case the split-up and behavioural remedies ordered by Judge Jackson are confirmed after their trip through the US judicial system comes to a final halt: "We do not hold meetings here to speculate," he said.