Judge to Rule Friday on Microsoft Case

The federal judge overseeing the Microsoft Corp. MSFT.O antitrust case will issue her decision on Friday on what sanctions should be imposed on the company, a court notice said. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will hand down her ruling at 4:30 p.m. EST, the court said. She will decide what additional sanctions — if any — to impose on Microsoft beyond the proposed settlement reached last year by the company and the Justice Department.

Kollar-Kotelly also is expected to rule on whether the Justice Department settlement is in the public interest.

“She’s got to decide if this settlement meets the (public interest) standard, and if not what it would take to meet the standard,” said antitrust attorney Steve Axinn.

Whichever way it goes, Friday’s ruling could be the end of the line in the long-running case.

“If she approves the settlement, that’s it,” said Axinn. On the other hand, any modifications the judge makes to the settlement are unlikely to be overturned on appeal, he said.

“She has broad discretion here,” Axinn said.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined comment on the upcoming ruling. Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said, “We look forward to the judge’s ruling on this case.”

An appeals court in June of 2001 upheld trial court findings that Microsoft had illegally maintained its Windows monopoly in computer operating systems, but rejected breaking the company in two as a remedy.

Microsoft reached a settlement with the Justice Department and nine states in November. But nine other states, including California, Iowa and Connecticut, say the deal is inadequate and have asked the judge for tougher restrictions.

Kollar-Kotelly heard final oral arguments on the remedies in June.

The settlement crafted by Microsoft and the U.S. Justice Department in November of 2001 gives computer makers greater freedom to feature rival software on their machines by allowing them to hide some Microsoft icons on the Windows desktop.

Microsoft would be prohibited from retaliating under the settlement against those who choose non-Microsoft products, nor could it enter into agreements that require the exclusive support of some Microsoft software.

Windows would be sold under a standard license to the major computer makers, under the proposed settlement, although discounts would still be allowed according to the volume of the order.

The nine states still pursuing the case are California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia.

These non-settling states have asked for greater disclosure of Microsoft’s code to allow rival software to work better with Windows.

They had also sought a version of the operating system with removable add-on features to create a better niche for competing versions of things like Internet browsers and media players.

The proposed settlement would be overseen by a three-person technical committee reporting to the Justice Department. It would expire after five years with the possibility of a two-year extension.

The states had wanted their sanctions to last 10 years, overseen by a special master who would report directly to the court.

Microsoft has long argued that the restrictions being sought by the states would benefit rivals like AOL Time Warner AOL.N and Sun Microsystems Inc. SUNW.O , and would deprive consumers of a reliable platform for software.

About Todd Cochrane

Todd Cochrane is the Founder of Geek News Central and host of the Geek News Central Podcast. He is a Podcast Hall of Fame Inductee and was one of the very first podcasters in 2004. He wrote the first book on podcasting, and did many of the early Podcast Advertising deals in the podcasting space. He does two other podcasts in addition to Geek News Central. The New Media Show and Podcast Legends.