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A US appeals court last week refused Microsoft's request for a rehearing about the issue of "co-mingling" the code of its operating system and web browsing software. However, the news was not all good for the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which initially brought the landmark anti-trust case in conjunction with a coalition of states against the Seattle-based software company. The DOJ's request that the case be fast-tracked back into a lower court was also refused.

The lower court will now not consider, until the middle of next month at the earliest, what remedies should be applied to prevent further anti-competitive behaviour by Microsoft. Despite that, the DOJ said it was pleased that the case would not be subject to further delay. Microsoft's request for a rehearing was widely interpreted as a delaying tactic, to ensure that its new Windows XP operating system reached market in October before any legal remedies could be made.

Intel introduced a new line of mobile Pentium III processors, running at speeds between 866MHz and 1.13MHz, that are designed to increase battery life as well as boost performance in laptop computers. The chips are built using 0.13-micron technology instead of the more common 0.18-micron technology used in desktop Pentium III chips.

The smaller circuits consume up to half the power of previous generation chips and, with the inclusion of 512Kb high-speed Level 2 cache memory, are claimed to be between 20 to 45 per cent faster. A slew of manufacturers said they would begin using the new chips immediately. Intel said that the new chips were not intended for use in high-end systems, but that "they should hit mainstream performance and price points".

Details of Microsoft's loosening of restrictions about which icons computer manufacturers can put on the desktop of new machines pre-installed with Windows XP were revealed last week. The latitude given is less than many commentators inferred from Microsoft's initial announcement last month. Manufacturers can ship systems with no icons on the desktop, but if they include icons for services and software such as AOL, Microsoft will also require them to display a prominent icon for its MSN service.

A Microsoft spokesman said the previous announcement, made in response to an appeal court ruling in the ongoing anti-trust case, referred only to the freedom of manufacturers to remove icons and links to Internet Explorer and replace them with other web browsing software such as Netscape Communicator or Opera.

By insisting on the MSN icon being displayed, Microsoft said it was ensuring that customers will be given a choice of products. John Buckley, the AOL Time Warner chairman, did not agree. "It appears that Microsoft is backing off its much ballyhooed itty bitty teeny weeny sliver of flexibility and heading back to the rigid stance that has been slapped down by the second highest court in the land," he said.

A brisk trade in leaked test copies of Apple's OS X upgrade, version 10.1, was reported last week. Although Apple insists that beta testers sign non-disclosure agreements before taking delivery of test software, the demand for the upgrade has ensured that it has reached a wider audience.

The full software is expected to be released next month. It aims to address most of the shortcomings of the current version, including support for DVD playback and a new version of Apple's DVD authoring software. reported that a copy it tested did not support DVD playback but did show significant improvements in the speed with which programs were launched.

Linux had mixed fortunes last week. Dell Computer said because of weak demand, it was dropping the option of pre-installing Red Hat Linux on its desktop and notebook computers. David Graves, a Dell spokesman, said that the company will continue to supply the operating system on its servers and that it will keep an eye on demand for Linux in the desktop market. "If things change, and there's an upswing in demand on the client side, we're open to going back to it," he said. "[It] has been very successful on the server side."

Meanwhile, a Singapore company, Serial System, unveiled a Linux-powered handheld device that stores up to 10Gb of data. The Terapin Mine, measuring 17.8cm by 8.1cm by 2.5cm, is designed to store digital photographs, digital music, and computer back-up files. It boots instantly, can connect to local area networks and can also be used as a mini file server. The $600 device is due to ship this month.

A rift broke out last week in the world of hard-disk standards with Maxtor's announcement of the ATA-133 storage standard, designed to bridge the gap between drives using the current ATA-100 interface that transfers data at 100Mb per second and the delayed 150Mb per second Serial ATA interface that Intel hopes to introduce in 2003.

Although there has been an ATA industry standard since 1994, the need for faster transfer rates means that the interface presents a possible bottleneck in modern systems. Intel said that the problem would not realistically surface before its faster Serial standard is introduced and that it will, therefore, not support the 133 standard in any of its chipsets. IBM and Acer have yet to decide, while Via has endorsed the new standard.