Microsoft partially succeeded in stretching out the appellate phase of its historic antitrust trial when the U.S. District Court of Appeals announced this week that the opening of oral arguments would occur in late February, not December as requested by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The February 26-27 date is just a few weeks less than Microsoft was asking and significantly more than the amount of time that is generally allotted in cases of this nature. The court also announced a slew of other deadlines, including November 27 for Microsoft's first brief filing, the government's reply on January 12, and Microsoft's rebuttal on January 29.

In addition to the schedule finalization, the court also limited the length of Microsoft's initial brief to 150 pages, while the government's reply was limited to 125 pages; the final Microsoft rebuttal was also limited, to 75 pages. The court noted that it "does not assume that length necessarily equates with quality," a strong suggestion that shorter, more concise filings would be appreciated. "The prescribed page limits are the MAXIMUM allowed, and the parties are discouraged from writing to the maximum if a more succinct offering would do," the court order states. Like the schedule, these document lengths are also somewhere between Microsoft's and the DOJ's recommendations.

Microsoft says it is happy with the court's schedule. "This is certainly fair and reasonable,'' Microsoft spokesperson Jim Cullinan said. "We believe this is a fair schedule and we look forward to presenting our arguments to the court. We are confident of our case on appeal and believe the district court's judgment will be reversed due to the wide array of legal, factual and procedural errors."

In an interesting bid to show its technical understanding, the court also posted a new Web site that will contain up-to-date information about the case as it proceeds