Is the Microsoft Case Moving Too Fast?

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Two ways, three ways, who cares? Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson wants Microsoft split up, and he's had this thing on his docket long enough. But while Jackson on Friday read over the government's re-recommendation that the software giant be split in two and gave the Redmond boys until close of business Wednesday to respond with the usual consternation, Microsoft's lawyers may be quietly rejoicing at Jackson's latest move: summarily denying them the chance to respond with witnesses to the breakup plan. "Jackson clearly has been around this case long enough. But this is the sort of due-process issue that might catch the eye of a sympathetic appeals court," says TIME legal and technology correspondent Adam Cohen. "It might even have been part of Microsoft's strategy, to get this judge angry and frustrate him into making mistakes."

The angry part certainly worked. Jackson finds it hard to believe that with every pundit, journalist and legal expert at least speculating about a breakup since last year, Microsoft's high-powered legal machinery couldn't have seen it coming. "Earlier, when the government wanted to discuss this kind of remedy, Microsoft refused to even consider it," says Cohen. "Jackson figures they had their chance." As for the mistake part, time will tell. And the case may skip the appeals court and go straight to El Supremo as soon as this summer. Expect Jackson to announce his ruling — some kind of a decision to break Microsoft up is all but assured — right on the heels of Microsoft's Wednesday filing, followed by the filing of an appeal by Redmond and a motion by the government on whether to go straight to the top court (they like that idea). And expect Jackson to be ecstatic to wash his hands of the whole thing.