Judge Allows 2 Days to Revise Microsoft Plan

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WASHINGTON -- The federal judge in the Microsoft antitrust case yesterday gave the Justice Department two days to revise its plan to break up the software giant and rejected the company's pleas for more time to respond.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered that revisions be based on issues raised in yesterday's hearing, including the possibility of splitting Microsoft into three new companies, rather than two as the government has proposed.

Under the Justice plan, one company would sell operating systems and the second would develop and market Microsoft's popular Office software and Internet properties. The hearing explored an additional option: a third company based on Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser.

Jackson dismissed a request from Microsoft that he hear evidence in the matter. "I contemplate no further process," he said.

"This case has been pending for two years now," Jackson snapped when company lawyers pleaded for more time. Microsoft apparently will have until Tuesday to respond to the government's updated plan.

Jackson said he will decide what punishment to impose after reviewing the government's updated plan and Microsoft's response. He ruled in April that Microsoft had engaged in business practices that violated antitrust laws. The company has said it will appeal the case.

Also discussed yesterday was whether Microsoft's newest operating system, Windows 2000, is compatible with other operating systems and whether Microsoft should release the computer source code for its products to its partners and competitors. Microsoft said that would cost the company billions.

The company's general counsel, William Neukom, said Jackson's action moves the case "very near" to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The appeals courts, which ruled in Microsoft's favor in a related case in 1998, is expected to be friendlier to the company. …