As expected the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Microsoft's appeal, bypassing the lower appellate court as requested by Judge Jackson. The DOJ is seeking to have Microsoft broken into two separate companies, one which would focus on its Windows family of operating systems; the other would sell Office and its other applications. If the Supreme Court does agree to hear the case directly, it will be only the third time since 1974 that a special law allowing for this procedure has been enacted. The government argues that such a step must be taken due to the "immense importance to our national economy." Microsoft had previously asked the high court to allow the Court of Appeals to hear its case first.

"\[This appeal\] is especially important to the rapidly developing high-technology sectors, which need to know how they will be affected by the remedies resulting from this case,'' the DOJ said in its filing. "If this case does not qualify for direct review, it is difficult to imagine what future case would."

Microsoft issued a statement Tuesday reiterating its position. "We continue to believe that the Supreme Court would benefit from an initial review of this very complex and technical appeal by the Court of Appeals and we look forward to responding next week in our reply brief."

A copy of the 45-page brief is available at the DOJ Antitrust Division Web site