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Microsoft to get swift hearing

A federal appeals court in Washington has granted Microsoft an expedited hearing into a preliminary injunction to prohibit it from tying its Internet Explorer browser to its operating systems. Microsoft asked for an expedited hearing because the preliminary injunction will apply at least until the end of May, when a more extensive investigation is completed. That schedule calls into question the viability of the planned April release of Windows 98. William Neukom of Microsoft said leaving the fate of Windows 98 in such an uncertain position could endanger the US economy. The court will not decide the final case, but will rule whether Judge Jackson was correct to issue his preliminary injunction.

Symantec to post bug fixes

Symantec will post a live update patch on its Web site ( to fix at least two bugs with its Norton Utilities 3.0 software released in November. One bug reported by some users occurs when the software package's optimisation wizard, aimed at speeding up boot time by compressing Windows registries, is run. The wizard backs up a user's registry, but in certain situations the registry can be damaged. A second bug, which occurs with some Diamond Multimedia graphics drivers, that makes the utility package crash when a splash screen is displayed, will also be fixed.

Microsoft acquires Hotmail

Microsoft has bought the free, Web-based e-mail company Hotmail, in a deal estimated to be worth up to $400m. The move will not only give Microsoft Network (MSN) members the ability to read their e-mail from any machine with Web access and browser software; it will also allow the existing 9.5 million Hotmail members access to MSN sites such as the travel site Expedia. By increasing such traffic Microsoft hopes to generate advertising revenue. "This [acquisition] completes our line-up," said Laura Jennings, vice-president of MSN. "We were missing a search engine and free e-mail on MSN until last summer. So we did a deal with Inktomi for search [capabilities] and Hotmail is head and shoulders above other [Web e-mail companies] in terms of scalability of service and members." Hotmail will continue to be available to those who use Internet services other than MSN, and will continue to operate from the domain name

Bulk e-mailers' threat to AOL

The National Organisation of Internet Commerce (NOIC), a US trade group for bulk e-mailers, is threatening to list online e-mail addresses of 5 million AOL members on Thursday, as a protest against the online service's policy of fighting spammers in the courts. Judges have ruled in several US courts that junk e-mailers have no constitutional right to send unsolicited e-mail. However, NOIC contends that AOL's campaign is prohibiting legitimate small businesses from contacting potential customers. "We do not feel that companies such as AOL should make the decision for their 10 million members," said Damien Melle, of NOIC. "When you log on to AOL, a large window pops up with advertisements from major companies - you can't reject these advertisements," he added. "AOL is blocking bulk e-mail because it wants the advertising revenues for itself." But Rich D'Amato, of AOL, commented: "If they think this is going to change our aggressive anti- junk e-mail campaign, they're wrong."

Andy Oldfield