Reversing a decision to shield its top executives from scrutiny in court, Microsoft might send Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer to the stand in the latest round of antitrust remedy hearings, which are set to begin March 11. Gates and Ballmer appear on a list with 33 other potential witnesses, including AMD CEO W.J. Sanders III, Compaq Vice President Howard Elias, Best Buy Vice President Philip Schoonover, and Oracle Vice President Ken Glueck.

Although Gates didn't appear in person in the original trial, the Department of Justice (DOJ) repeatedly showed videotaped deposition excerpts of the strangely recalcitrant executive in court; in the deposition, then-CEO Gates was unhelpful and seemed to know little about the day-to-day operations of his company. Gates later said that he hadn't expected the tape to be shown publicly and was simply following his lawyer's advice.

Since that time, the court found Microsoft guilty of violating several US antitrust laws, and the case was sent on appeal to a new judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. The DOJ dropped its recommendation to break up Microsoft, and the company reached a proposed settlement with the DOJ and nine US states. Nine other states and the District of Columbia are still attempting to punish Microsoft with stricter sanctions. If Gates and Ballmer do appear, they'll testify during hearings related to these sanctions.