A Good Day for Microsoft

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WASHINGTON: Score round two to Microsoft? A Federal panel heard the software firm's unbundling appeal Tuesday with a sympathetic ear. "The judges were more critical of the Justice Department," says TIME Daily Washington correspondent Declan McCullagh, "interrupting each other to quiz the government's lawyer." Nor were the omens good for Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who made the original order that Microsoft disentangle Internet Explorer from Windows 95. "That's not the way we hand out preliminary injunctions up here," warned Judge Patricia Wald -- who is, in normal circumstances, a big fan of antitrust law.

All in all, the judges were surprisingly tech-minded, offering lawyers on both sides an esoteric pop quiz. Is Internet Explorer integrated or bundled? Has any computer manufacturer taken advantage of the unbundling order? (No, shrugged the DOJ). And most importantly, how big will the Windows 95 market be after the June 25 release of Windows 98? For Judge Wald, that question was rhetorical: "It's going to be minuscule." Which means that whatever the appeals court rules in the next three months, it may not matter anyway. If the DOJ is indeed planning a wider antitrust case, it had better hurry up.