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Microsoft signalled last week that it would release the so-called Gold Code for its forthcoming operating system to PC manufacturers on 24 August, by which time Ballmer expects all potential system bugs to have been removed.
Microsoft's antitrust case is expected to move back to trial court level as soon as 24 August, where a new judge will review the sentencing.
According to legal experts, Microsoft may have managed to sidestep any possible court injunction preventing distribution by making the new software available so soon. Microsoft had already informed PC makers that they could ship computers running Windows XP before the planned 25 October launch date, adding to the time pressure on its legal opponents.
"The further along Microsoft is in the development process, the more it is able to argue to a judge that the government waited too long to react," said Emmett Stanton, a lawyer at the law firm Fenwick & West.
Bob Brammer, a spokesman for Iowa's attorney general's office, refused to comment on rumours that state officials intended to push for an injunction to prevent Windows XP from shipping. "We certainly are taking advice about the case, but it is off limits to discuss what we might do next," he said.
Much of the criticism from opponents has centred on Microsoft's decision to bundle applications such as a media player, instant messaging and digital photography software with Windows XP.
One industry analyst predicted that Windows XP would reach consumers without any significant delay, partly because of its importance to the PC sector. "The release is going to happen," he said. "I don't think we're going to see an injunction. Too many people have too much riding on this."