Judgement Nears For Microsoft

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WASHINGTON: For the first time since his infamous 90-second uninstalling of Microsoft's Explorer from Windows 95, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will see Justice and the software giant in court on Tuesday. At stake: whether Microsoft should be held in contempt for violating the 1995 consent decree.

The hours-long hearing will likely be dominated by argument over the fitness of Lawrence Lessig, the court-appointed special master who Microsoft insists is biased against the company. "Microsoft spokespeople say the Lessig issue was discussed for 'for less than a minute' during a conference call last week," says Netly News writer Declan McCullagh. "That won't be enough. Look for fireworks tomorrow."

Something not to expect: the return of the $1M a day fine that Justice was brandishing at the company's last fall. "At least not right away," says McCullagh. "Judge Jackson said the government had a high hurdle to leap to convince him of that. It looks like they haven't yet." Jackson's decision is probably several days away. And of course it will hardly be final: well-prepared as always, Microsoft has already scheduled oral arguments before a federal appeals court in the spring.