Microsoft outwitted by judge

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The Independent Online
Who understands how Microsoft's software works? Is it a federal judge, a PC magazine, or the Seattle-based corporation?

It only took Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson 90 seconds to decide that Microsoft might not know its own products very well. That's how long it took him on Tuesday to "uninstall" a program that Microsoft had insisted last month was inextricably intertwined with its Windows95 operating system.

Last month, Microsoft lost a court battle in which the US Department of Justice accused it of breaking a 1995 agreement to keep separate the sale of its Windows95 operating system and its Internet Explorer (IE) browser, used to surf the World Wide Web.

The purpose was to prevent Microsoft using its near-monopoly of the PC operating system to rub out rivals for the Internet browser market.

But after the 11 December verdict, Microsoft said that it was simply not possible to split the modern versions of IE and Windows95, and offered PC manufacturers a Hobson's choice: either take Windows95 with IE integrated into it, or take a two-year-old version of the operating system without.

However Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who made the original ruling, found that he could uninstall IE in 90 seconds, leaving the latest version of Windows95 operating normally.