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New Judge Assigned to Hear Remainder of Microsoft Case

By Jonathan Krim and Carrie Johnson
THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON

A new judge was assigned to the Microsoft antitrust case Friday, opening what could be the final chapter in one of the most contentious, highly publicized and important antitrust litigations in a generation.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will hear the remaining parts of the four-year-old case and determine what penalties will be imposed on the Redmond, Wash., software giant. Unless the case is settled, her ruling could help shape how antitrust law will be applied in the rapidly changing marketplace of high technology.

Kollar-Kotelly, 58, replaces fellow District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who was thrown off the case by a federal appeals court in June.

The appeals court ruled that Jackson, who presided over the trial, made improper and biased comments about the case to the media and failed to hold separate hearings before ordering that the company be broken in two.

But although it excoriated Jackson for his conduct and threw out his breakup order, the appeals court upheld many of his conclusions that Microsoft illegally abused its monopoly over personal-computer operating systems.

It will now be up to Kollar-Kotelly to set the pace for the next phase of the case. Although she has little experience presiding over antitrust cases, she has a reputation as a no-nonsense, efficient trial judge who almost never speaks to the news media.

State and federal prosecutors want to push ahead as rapidly as possible. They have argued that failure to quickly rectify Microsoft’s anti-competitive conduct damages the public interest and are particularly concerned about the imminent launch of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows XP, which they believe repeats some of the conduct that sparked the original case.

But at almost the same moment that Kollar-Kotelly was assigned to the case, Microsoft was releasing its final, “gold” version of XP to computer manufacturers in a splashy ceremony at its Redmond headquarters. PC makers will now install and test the software on new machines, a process that usually takes about a month, and then are free to ship them to be sold via stores, catalogues or online. The software will be available in stores on Oct. 25.