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Judge sets date for Microsoft trial

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson agreed on Friday to Microsoft's request to combine the two major lawsuits brought against it by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and 20 individual states earlier last week. The judge also set 8 September as the starting date for the trial which will rule on allegations that Microsoft is acting illegally to maintain its operating systems monopoly and abusing its power to extend its monopoly into the Internet software market.

Microsoft had asked to be given until the end of the year to respond to the charges, arguing that it needed to conduct extensive interviews with potential witnesses, including economists, to counter material that the DOJ and the states have been gathering for at least two years. The DOJ wanted the case to start in mid-June.

The trial will address a government request for a preliminary injunction against Microsoft to prevent it from requiring computer manufacturers to include Internet Explorer in Windows 98, which is scheduled to ship next month, as well as wider issues. Commentators believe that although Windows 98 is at the heart of the case, the DOJ plans to widen the scope as the case proceeds, possibly to include Windows NT and Java.

The European Commission, while co-operating with the DOJ, said it is not investigating the issue separately, preferring to leave matters to the US government authorities, who are better placed to deal with it.

Piracy limits economic benefits

A report from the Business Software Alliance and Price Waterhouse predicts that the UK software industry is set to increase by 10 per cent per year to 2001 and improve the domestic economy by providing 110,975 jobs, $10.46bn in sales and $3.8bn in tax revenues. However, the potential is even greater if software piracy in the UK can be reduced from the European level of 43 per cent to the US level of 27 per cent. With such a reduction, another 31, 265 jobs could be created, $3bn added to sales and another $1bn in tax revenue raised.

According to David Gulley, senior consultant at Price Waterhouse: "If software piracy is officially tolerated, the overall progress of the industry is greatly reduced, delaying or even wiping out some of the benefits of improved competitiveness, non-inflationary growth and better living standards that the industry could contribute to the economies of Western Europe."

The report argues that government support for software copyright protection through legislation and active enforcement can quickly lead to dramatic improvements. Stronger laws in Italy in 1992 saw a reduction in software piracy from 85 per cent to 50 per cent in one year, which in turn led to a quadrupling of the legal software market.

Apple will adopt Intel technology

Traditionally a hardware innovator, Apple is increasingly adopting technologies developed by Intel and commonly implemented on PCs. In 1995 it dropped its Nu-Bus slots in favour of Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) technology - a bus that shuttles data from devices such as graphics cards and hard drives. The commitment to open standards is set to increase, allowing lower manufacturing costs and access to cheaper, off-the-shelf hardware components.

Intel's Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) technology will be incorporated into Apple systems by mid-1999. New Power Mac G3 systems will use zero insertion force (ZIF) sockets that have been standard on Intel-based PCs as a means of enabling easy processor upgrades. The universal serial bus (USB) will be included with the new iMac, which is due to go on sale in August, allowing cheaper PC peripherals such as modems, keyboards and printers to be connected to Mac systems.

"Apple really needs to leverage broader industry technology and components if it's going to be successful," Kevin Hause, an analyst for International Data Corporation, said. "It doesn't have enough volume in and of itself for large component suppliers to create and maintain separate product lines."

Online music store teams up with MTV

CDnow, the online music store, has signed a $14m deal with MTV, the cable music channel, in an effort to promote the World Wide Web as a mass market outlet for music sales. As well as sponsoring MTV's 1998 Music Awards, CDnow will receive advertising on the music station and will have integrated hotlinks within MTV's Web site. CDnow's Web site will also feature a real- time sales link to what is being broadcast on MTV and another music channel, VH1.

"[MTV and VH1] are the only brands that have the true horsepower to move consumers from their televisions to their computers, and that's what marketing convergence is all about," Jason Olim, CDnow's co-founder and chief executive, said. The partnership begins next month and is scheduled to last for three years.