Microsoft, DoJ to wait it out another week

US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's decision not to issue his findings of fact in the Microsoft antitrust trial last Friday ended hours of anxious anticipation in the high-tech, financial and legal communities.

Jackson said last week that he would issue his findings -- which will outline how he views the evidence presented in the 76-day trial but is not a final ruling -- on "a Friday" after financial markets close. Microsoft and the US Department of Justice will be notified two hours earlier than that.

Word came that it would be at least another week before the findings of fact are issued. Microsoft and the Department of Justice will then present their responses, and a final ruling from Jackson is not expected until 2000. Between now and then, the two sides could return to the negotiation table in hopes of hammering out a settlement.

Some observers speculated that part of the reason Jackson did not issue his report this week is because on November 1, Microsoft is due to debut on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the judge has taken pains to try to minimise the decision's impact on the stock market.

The financial community is bracing for a ruling that heavily criticises Microsoft. One financial analyst who tracks the software giant said in an in-house memorandum that the ruling "undoubtedly will be negative", and "could be a near term negative to the stock".

When Jackson does issue his findings, some copies will be available for the press and public at the Washington courthouse. Microsoft and the Department of Justice both will post the decision on their Web sites, and the court will publish it on a specially created Web site -- usvms.gpo.gov -- although that site is not yet active.

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