On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she will release her widely anticipated ruling at 1:30 p.m. PST on Friday.
Kollar-Kotelly indicated she would rule on two matters that have been proceeding on parallel tracks: whether to approve a tentative deal that Microsoft and the U.S. Justice Department inked last fall, and what remedies are appropriate in the separate case being pursued by a number of state attorneys general.
The decision will be available at the district court's Web site, http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov, after financial markets close.
Under a federal law called the Tunney Act, Kollar-Kotelly must determine whether the antitrust settlement is in the public interest. She's required to consider whether the deal will thwart any alleged wrongdoing, how it will affect competitors and how long it will remain in force.
Microsoft competitors including AOL Time Warner, SBC Communications, Sun Microsystems, Palm and Novell had complained in court filings that additional penalties are needed.
Nine of the 18 states that filed the lawsuit in 1998 have signed the proposed settlement. Another nine--California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah and West Virginia--continue to pursue the case.
If Kollar-Kotelly does not agree to the proposed, the Justice Department and Microsoft could appeal.
The second matter before Kollar-Kotelly is what punishment is appropriate in the ongoing case being litigated by the states.
Originally U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson had ordered that Microsoft be carved into two companies. But after Microsoft appealed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. CircuitJackson for being intolerably biased and removed him from the case.
In strong language seldom seen in discussions of a fellow jurist, the appeals court unanimously condemned Jackson's "rampant disregard for the judiciary's ethical obligations" not to talk to reporters while the lawsuit was in his court.
The appeals court overturned the breakup order, but did agree with Jackson that Microsoft had violated antitrust laws and should be punished.
Because a breakup proposal is now off the table, the still-litigating states have been forced to suggest other ideas. One of their recommendations is to force Microsoft to release a second version of Windows from which so-called middleware like Internet Explorer could be removed.
Over the last year, Microsoft has sought tothat it already is complying with the terms of the settlement agreement, even before it's been approved by the judge.
Microsoft has disclosed details about Windows communications protocols and introduced a new control into Windows 2000 and Windows XP that lets PC makers keep middleware such as the Internet Explorer browser off the desktop.