Microsoft seeks rehearing on part of appeal ruling

By Craig Stedman, Computerworld online |  Government

Claiming "that critical evidence was overlooked or misinterpreted," Microsoft Corp. yesterday asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to reconsider its recent ruling that the software vendor violated antitrust laws by tying the Internet Explorer browser to Windows.

In a petition filed with the appeals court this afternoon, Microsoft requested a rehearing on the question of whether its policy of not allowing Internet Explorer to be separated from Windows was illegal. The company described that as "a single narrow issue," but said the court's finding on the matter "is important because it might be read to suggest that [PC makers] should be given the option of removing the software code in Windows 98 ... that is specific to Web browsing."

The rehearing petition goes against a motion filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) last Friday asking the Court of Appeals to quickly send the matter back to a trial court for the determination of remedies against Microsoft. The DOJ, along with the 18 states that are still involved in the antitrust case, asserted that "speed is of the essence" in devising ways to stop what the court found to be anticompetitive behavior on the company's part.

Today's filing also comes a week after Microsoft announced immediate changes that give computer vendors more flexibility in configuring desktop versions of Windows, including the ability to remove Internet Explorer entries and icons from the operating system's Start menu. The company acknowledged that it was acting in response to last month's decision by the Court of Appeals, which upheld a lower-court ruling that provisions in Microsoft's OEM licenses impaired the competitive chances of rival Web browsers.

However, the changes made by Microsoft don't mean that the browser will actually be removed from the operating system. PC makers would be allowed to put the Internet Explorer icons in the "Add/Remove Programs" utility instead of on the Start menu, but the software vendor said the browser technology itself would remain even if the remove function is run.

In its petition, Microsoft repeated previous claims that it didn't engage in any improper "commingling" of Internet Explorer and Windows by placing Web browsing code in the same files that control operating system functions. Instead, Microsoft argued, it put the browser and operating system code "close to one another" in order to reduce system overhead and improve performance.

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