This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

The Microsoft-DOJ Dance Marathon

Sep 21 2001 07:37 AM PDT

Redmond and the U.S. submit schedules for hearings, and either way, the music will keep playing until at least next fall.

As ordered, though delayed by the events of last week, Microsoft and the government turned in a Joint Status Report to the new judge assigned to the antitrust case. The document was supposed to propose a schedule for the remedies phase of the long-running legal battle. In fact it proposed three schedules, one from the government and two from Microsoft.

In the quickest of the three, hearings would begin on Feb. 4, and this phase of the trial could wrap up in the fall of 2002 after 16 witnesses had testified. Under Microsoft's worst-case schedule, testimony wouldn't even begin until next summer and could include more than twice as many witnesses. After the likely appeal to the Supreme Court by whichever side loses, we're looking at resolution in 2003 at the earliest, the New York Times said.

The Register called the filing "essentially two rival documents," and said it "switches dizzyingly between the two from section to section." All outlets covering the story agreed that the filing revealed little common ground between the sides.

On Sept. 10 the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft had readied an initial settlement offer. Today the Journal's John R. Wilke reported that a meeting had been scheduled for Sept. 11 at which Microsoft was to present this offer. After the meeting was cancelled, "like much of the nation's economy and public life," the parties made their way home by train and car and "resumed their talks by telephone and e-mail," according to no-name sources.

The AP's coverage, carried in the Washington Post and elsewhere, quoted a law professor cautioning, "At this stage, I'm not sure where Microsoft's incentive is to settle the case." said the government's proposed schedule is "aimed at wrapping up" the case before the "new Windows XP operating system takes hold in the marketplace." Others were more skeptical. The New York Times led with the assertion that the government had proposed a schedule that "by taking years to conclude could have limited effect on the company's new operating system."

The Seattle Times favored the supposition that the government's "surprisingly tepid" proposal may result from fears of what stiff Microsoft penalties could do the reeling economy. This much is unanimous: Don't hold your breath.

Microsoft, Justice Department Present Positions in Antitrust Case

Microsoft Seeks a Long Penalty Process
New York Times
(Registration required.)

MS, DoJ wrangle jointly over schedule, size of noose
The Register

Microsoft Drafts Settlement Proposal, Hoping to Resolve Antitrust Lawsuit (Sept. 10)
The Wall Street Journal
(Paid subscription required.)

Windows XP Will Be Central Focus Of Final Round of Antitrust Hearings
The Wall Street Journal
(Paid subscription required.)

Prosecutors push for action on Microsoft before XP takes hold

Slower pace proposed for next steps in antitrust case
Seattle Times

Microsoft, Feds Discuss Settlement (AP)
Washington Post