More Woe for Microsoft

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WASHINGTON: The relationship between Microsoft and Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has been stormy at the best of times. But it took another turn for the worse Wednesday night when Jackson fired off a scathing written response to the software giant's claim that the court-appointed "special master," Lawrence Lessig, was biased. "The bases given for those accusations are both trivial and altogether nonprobitive," Jackson wrote. "They are, therefore, defamatory and the court finds that they were not made in good faith. Had they been made in a more formal manner, they might well have incurred sanctions."

What upset the judge so? It could well have been Microsoft's claim that Lessig had compared them to the devil in an E-mail to a friend at rival Netscape a claim that Jackson denounced on the grounds that the E-mail was clearly written in jest. In any case, the very mention of sanctions does not bode well for the outcome of the contempt hearing, when the Justice Department is asking for a $1 million-a-day fine to be slapped on the Redmond corporation. Indeed, Microsoft may have mounted a vigorous technical defense Wednesday of why Windows 95 and Internet Explorer remain essentially entwined. But when it comes down to it, the fuming Jackson may be more disposed to remember the simple words that flashed on the screen at the end of the DOJ's Add/Remove presentation: "Explorer uninstalled successfully."