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Temporary victory for Microsoft

A US appeals court has temporarily suspended Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard University law professor appointed by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson as a special adviser in the anti-trust case brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Microsoft.

Last month, Judge Jackson denied the motion by Microsoft to remove Lessig from the case, calling its charges against the Harvard professor "defamatory". Lawyers for the software company alleged that Lessig was biased, and that the judge who appointed him lacked the authority to do so.

Microsoft said it looked forward to presenting its case in the appeals court and the trial court. "We view this as a positive step, but it's only one step in the whole process," said Tom Pilla, a Microsoft spokesman. "We believe that this case is critical to consumers and the future health of the US software industry."

The decision seems likely to delay proceedings, which might enable Microsoft to release Windows 98 before legal issues about the integration of Internet Explorer 4 with the operating system are resolved, making the DOJ's case more difficult.

Earlier in the week, Dennis Vacco, the New York state Attorney General, said that he and colleagues in 10 other states had issued identical subpoenas to Microsoft. "The states' investigation is focusing on whether Microsoft is improperly using its dominant market position with Windows to force consumers also to use its Internet browser product, Internet Explorer." He said the subpoena specifically demands information about plans to market Windows 98. Meanwhile, the DOJ was reported to be examining the possibility of filing fresh, separate anti-trust charges against Microsoft.

Gates denies interest in BT

Microsoft said it has no interest in buying BT, despite rumours that have boosted the shares of the telecoms company. "There has never been any discussion about us buying any part of a phone company - British Telecom or any other," said Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman, after meeting the French finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in Paris last week.

"However, the co-operation between ourselves and the phone companies is a very important thing. If you believe in the Internet, you need lots of high-speed connections and that requires investment by the phone companies," he said. "We have good relationships with phone companies around the world."

One gigahertz chips unveiled

Digital Equipment and IBM last week announced technologies that will enable chips to reach speeds of 1,000MHz, or 1GHz. The chips will be used on servers and high-end workstations, which currently run at around 300MHz. As well as the experimental PowerPC chip, IBM also revealed plans to use their innovative copper technology to build it and a 500MHz version of the PowerPC 750 processor currently used in Power Macintosh computers.

Executives said the new chips, containing 1 million transistors and built with 0.25 micron technology, will be featured in RS/6000 servers before the end of the year and may soon migrate into desktop computers. "Circuit and architecture innovations, including merging some functions and performing others in parallel, enabled us to reach 1,000MHz," said Sang Dhong, one of the IBM engineers.

The new generation of Digital's Alpha chip, the 64-bit Alpha 21264, will run at more than 1,000MHz by the year 2000, the company said, and will support Digital Unix, Windows NT and OpenVMS. The first chips will be manufactured by a 0.35 micron process that uses six layers of metal.

56K modem standard agreed

On Friday, the International Telecommunications Union, meeting in Geneva, completed the technical specifications of the standard for 56K modems. The standard, known as V.pcm, allows modems using current incompatible 56K technologies to communicate with each other, and sets the stage for vendors to release compatible modems as soon as next month.

When the formal standard is ratified, probably in September, products and upgrades shipped before that date may require additional upgrades. However, "Once a draft standard is set, everybody goes ahead and ships their products," said a 3Com official.

Andy Oldfield