A federal judge has refused to delay or narrow the 3-year-old antitrust case against Microsoft, ordering the company and the government to instead launch into immediate round-the-clock settlement talks.
"This case should be settled, and this is an optimal time to do so," Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered last week in her first hearing on the case. "I expect you to engage in discussions around the clock."
Kollar-Kotelly was chosen to oversee the landmark case against Microsoft after an appeals court in June overturned an order that the company be broken up and removed the original judge, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, for bias.
Kollar-Kotelly was ordered to review some of the claims against Microsoft and to decide appropriate punishment for one Jackson ruling — that Microsoft acted illegally to protect its Windows monopoly.
During the one-hour procedural hearing on Friday, the judge denied Microsofts earlier request to limit consideration of punishments before any evidence had been presented.
She also set a schedule to keep the trial moving quickly, with briefs due in December and hearing to start March 11, 2002, if no settlement is reached.
The judges statement was a rebuke to Microsoft, said Robert Lande, a University of Baltimore antitrust professor. "She wasnt going to let Microsoft delay things," he said.
Neither Microsoft counsel William Neukom nor John Warden had any comment after the hearing.
Charles James, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justices Antitrust Division, was upbeat. "We are certainly pleased with the courts determinations," he said.
Meanwhile, Microsofts critics are increasing in number. Attorneys general from Arkansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont sent a letter to Microsoft on Sept. 20 stating concerns about anticompetitive aspects of the upcoming Windows XP system.