Later today (Wednesday 6 March) US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will begin a hearing on the proposed settlement authored by the DOJ nd backed by nine of the 18 states in this case. US Federal law requires the judge to decide whether the proposed settlement is in the "public interest."
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group, urged users to pay attention to the next phase. He pointed out that any remedy could open the door to competing browsers - something that would affect corporate developers, who would have to support and validate their work to run with multiple browsers.
The focus of the hearing will be on the future of the technology industry and the PC. It will examine, for instance, whether handheld device makers such as Palm represent a formidable challenge to the PC or are on a course similar to Netscape - unable to overcome Microsoft's desktop dominance.
In court papers filed on 1 Match, the states said that a Palm official would testify that his company's PDAs rely on synchronisation with Windows PCs to fully perform certain functions and that Microsoft "has attempted to block Palm's development through anticompetitive actions such as blocking access to Microsoft's development tools."
Microsoft positions Windows CE, the portable version of Windows, as a business tool. IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky said that the company hopes corporate IT managers would buy handheld devices running Windows CE because of their ability to work well with desktop Windows systems. "Organisations have a tendency to go along the path that is easiest," said Kusnetzky.
The settlement hearing, which is expected to last one to two days, will be followed by a remedy hearing that may last as long as two months - about half the length of the initial trial. This remedy hearing will be on the proposal by the nine states that have refused to accept the settlement, and it seeks such things as a stripped-down operating system.
For that second phase, Kollar-Kotelly is allowing testimony from 16 witnesses for the states and 31 for Microsoft. The judge is giving each side 100 hours to make their respective cases.
"It shows that she is taking the remedy phase very seriously," said Bob Lande, a law professor at the University of Baltimore Law School. "She is erring on the side of being absolutely fair to Microsoft."
The remedy hearings are scheduled to begin 11 March, but Microsoft has asked the judge for a two-week delay to give it more time to analyse some recent revisions to the states' proposed remedy.
The Tunney Act is a law that gives the public the right to comment on any proposed federal antitrust settlement. Under the Tunney Act, the government received a record 30,000 responses to its request for comments. Two-thirds of those who wrote in expressing an opinion on the ruling opposed it.