Will it ever end? Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson extended the Microsoft trial to next week, granting a request made by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which wanted to have a few days to incorporate some of Microsoft's suggestions into its proposed remedy. Even for this topsy-turvy, seemingly never ending trial, it was a bit of a surprise, but the judge agreed, with the caveat that this was to be the last extension. So the DOJ has until Monday to respond to Microsoft's filing and use some of its suggestions in its own remedy proposal. And Microsoft has until Wednesday to make a final set of comments about the filing.
"From a quick review, some \[of Microsoft's suggestions\] seem to make some sense to us, and we would like the opportunity to go through those in detail and to give the court our view on that," said DOJ lawyer David Boies in a telephone call with Jackson and Microsoft's lawyers. "We will take the points we agree with, and try to advise the court of our agreement and why we agree to them. And with respect to the points that we disagree with, try very briefly just to indicate the reasons we disagree." DOJ antitrust chief Joel Klein says that only a few of Microsoft's suggestions will be incorporated into its remedy proposal. "There may be a few that are acceptable to us," Klein said.
But the DOJ's action wasn't purely complimentary: The agency wants a chance to respond to some of Microsoft's allegations, which would have otherwise gone unanswered. This should help the government's case when Microsoft ultimately appeals the case. Microsoft had blasted the DOJ's plan to split the company into two separate companies as "defective, vague and ambiguous." The company didn't mince any words in its response. "When an injunction is so vague and ambiguous that it 'defies comprehension' it is void and unenforceable," the filing reads.
In a related development, Attorney General Janet Reno described Microsoft as the modern equivalent of a "robber baron," while defending the DOJ's use of Microsoft products. "I don't think that you endorse something by purchasing it, if that's the only game in town, in terms of an effective machine, low price, the lowest price available." she said. When asked how the government could choose to split up a company with the economic impact of Microsoft, Reno was clear on her opinion of Microsoft. "America was not made the industrial giant of the world by the robber barons alone," she said. "It was made the industrial giant of the world by competition, by encouraging new developments, by encouraging young entrepreneurs to break into the market. It's the best system I've seen so far.