US Report: Sound and fury surround MS

If you thought the hysteria surrounding Microsoft was intense last week, you haven't seen anything yet.

This week is the race to the finish line, and the winner is still up in the air. For Microsoft, the goal is to get Windows 98 completed and out to OEMs by May 15. For lawmakers, both state and federal, it's getting a lawsuit completed.

Sources close to the investigation say a lawsuit could come down early in the week from a dozen states and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). One source close to the investigation said a teleconference is scheduled for Monday between the states and the DOJ to go over final planning for the suit.

Depending on the outcome of that call, Microsoft, may soon find itself in court battling anti-trust charges that range from illegal integration of its Internet Explorer browser into Windows 98 to alteration of the Java language to OEM contractual issues that address the configuration of the desktop.

But with both the DOJ and the state attorneys general keeping their plans close to the vest, the scope of any action is not likely to be known until a lawsuit is filed in federal court.

In the meantime, nearly everyone tried to weigh in on what should or shouldn't happen to Microsoft last week.

Microsoft kicked things off on Monday when it dropped a letter in the lap of Wall Street, stating that a delay in the release of Windows 98 would hurt the U.S. economy.

Then came what observers described as a "prep rally" in New York on Tuesday, with Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates, along with more than 50 supporters from the software, hardware and retail sectors, painting a bleak picture of the computer industry if Windows 98 were delayed.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Washington Senator Slade Gorton also squared off, with Hatch urging on the investigation of Microsoft and saying that the rally and letter writing campaign smacked of coercion. Senator Gorton weighed in by saying that Hatch didn't understand the full issues of the case.

The week closed with animosities at a fever pitch. On Thursday, the DOJ said an appeals court should deny a request that Windows 98 be excluded from Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's December preliminary injunction. The DOJ's charge was part of a reply brief filed two days after Microsoft requested a stay of the preliminary injunction.

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