June 18, 2002, 12:07 PM — Microsoft Corp. and the nine states pursuing litigation against it will get their final say in the remedy portion of the antitrust case when a federal judge hears closing arguments on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will listen to each side argue for their proposed remedies to Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior in this closing portion of the hearing, slated to last no longer than a day. Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court's decision that Microsoft violated antitrust law by attempting to maintain its monopoly in the PC operating system market through anticompetitive behavior.
Kollar-Kotelly will likely choose remedies from each side's proposals in making her final decision, said Bob Schneider, an antitrust specialist and attorney with law firm Chapman & Cutler in Chicago.
"The way I think she'll go is to grant some of what the states want, and then go back and make some changes" to Microsoft's proposed remedies, Schneider said.
Throughout the remedy hearing, which began March 18, Microsoft lawyers have attempted to show that the states' proposed remedies are far too broad, exceeding the scope of liabilities that the Court of Appeals outlined last year and creating havoc not only for Microsoft but for the PC industry at large.
Perhaps the most controversial remedy proposed by the states would force Microsoft to sell an "unbound" version of Windows -- one free from additional programs such as a browser and media player that are referred to as middleware -- so that PC makers and end users could replace those programs with ones from competitors. In a dramatic reaction to that proposal, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates testified in April that the company would be forced to pull Windows from the market if the remedy was accepted by the judge.
Removing such middleware from Windows would cripple other aspects of the operating system, such as the help program, Gates told the court. Because the proposed remedy states that the unbound version of Windows must be a functional equivalent to the full operating system, minus the removed middleware, Gates said there is no way Microsoft could satisfy the provision and so the company would be forced to stop selling Windows to avoid violating the remedy.
Microsoft attorneys have said no remedies should be imposed on the company, but also offered up the terms of its settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and nine other states as a workable solution. Last November, Microsoft reached an agreement with the DOJ and half of the states involved in the antitrust case, but the other half did not settle and have held out for tougher restrictions against the company's business practices.