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JUDGE THOMAS Penfold Jackson last week rejected Microsoft's request to dismiss the anti-trust case brought against it by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and 20 states, and moved the starting date of the trial back to 15 October.

Pre-trial manoeuvring continued with allegations that Microsoft employees had deleted e-mails pertinent to the DOJ's case. Microsoft denied the allegations and accused the government of attempting to undermine the company's reputation.

Microsoft also claimed the DOJ was using documents out of context in its key arguments about its competitive relationship with Netscape. "The government has repeatedly used tiny snippets of information out of context to deliberately mislead the public and distort facts in this case," Mark Murray, a Microsoft spokesman, said.

"We believe that the judge and the public will see the government's action in a very different light once all the facts about their misuse of snippets are shown at trial."

Meanwhile, at a Software Publishers Association (SPA) conference in Chicago, Microsoft was much more contrite. Tod Nielsen, general manager for developer relations, apologised about the company's past arrogance. "This is a sincere and heartfelt apology. Let's build a relationship going forward so you and Microsoft can be successful," he said.

The SPA has been critical of Microsoft recently. It encouraged the anti- trust lawsuit against Microsoft and twice turned down a top Microsoft executive's attempts to win a seat on the SPA board.


THE US last week slightly relaxed its restrictions on the export of strong encryption products made by American companies.

Under new regulations announced in the White House, no licence will be necessary for US companies to export to 45 approved countries software and hardware products with an encryption strength of 56 bits.

"The administration will strengthen its support for electronic commerce by permitting the export of strong encryption when used to protect sensitive financial, health, medical and business proprietary information in electronic form," said Mike McCurry, a White House press secretary.

Industry spokesmen said the decision was a step in the right direction but that it did not go far enough.

Civil rights groups pointed out that while many businesses may securely transmit information over the Internet under the revised policy, private citizens do not get any help. "We see this a half a loaf at best," said Alan Davidson, of the Centre for Democracy and Technology.

"Providing relief for industry is welcome, but it leaves the little guys out in the cold. When do the rest of us get to protect our privacy?"


INTEL SIGNED a deal last week with RealNetworks licensing its video compression and streaming technology to be incorporated into RealSystem G2 that is due to ship next month. The new software, which will encode data four times quicker than existing streaming technologies, will also decode quickly and deliver better quality video and audio over the Web.

"The software will lower the barriers to widespread deployment of streaming media programming on the Web," said Craig Kinnie, Intel's vice-president and architecture labs director.

The agreement is seen by some analysts as proof of a widening rift between Intel and Microsoft, first seen in the US anti-trust case, where Microsoft is alleged to have pressured Intel to drop Internet-related projects.

Intel would not say whether Microsoft knew about the licensing deal with RealNetworks, which is an example of Intel sharing technology with a Microsoft competitor in a key area for future profit on the Net.


FINAL APPROVAL from the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva was eventually given last week to the V.90 industry standard 56kbps modem technology. The standard had been set in February and adopted by modem manufacturers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as a way of halting a standards battle based on competing and incompatible 56kbps technologies.

Although hailed as a solution to compatibility issues, V.90 is still causing some problems. With Apple's iMac, users have had difficulty in establishing a dial-up connection with their ISPs - a problem that Apple says is caused by ISPs not properly implementing the V.90 code.

Ratification of the standard should mean that sales of faster modems will take off, but prices, which have already been cut, are not expected to fall further.


PC DESIGNS drawing on the look of Apple's iMac were to the fore at last week's Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, California. Top of the range of possible PCs for the new millennium was Intel's Aztec, a machine described by the company as "a monument to the gods of speed and power".

The Katmai-chip powered PC has four USB ports and specialist ports for connecting devices such as camcorders. Other PC shapes were based on the double-helix, clamshells and a vase. All the machines had a sleep-mode that allows them to be reactivated in eight seconds. iMac lookalike PCs are expected to start shipping next year with the Korean company Trigem's E-Machine range.