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Trial's deposition phase moves forward

Lawyers preparing for the rebuttal phase of Microsoft's antitrust trial, now in recess, have named all four of the executives expected to be deposed.

Lawyers preparing for the rebuttal phase of Microsoft's antitrust trial, now in recess, have named all four of the executives expected to be deposed.

The depositions will likely focus on the three-way deal announced last fall among Sun Microsystems, Netscape Communications, and America Online.

The latest executive to be Microsoft's day in court named is Netscape executive vice president Peter Currie. His deposition will be taken on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., at a location to be announced later. Yesterday, Sun designated its vice president and chief operating officer of staff operations Mike Popov to be deposed on behalf of that company.

Steve Case, AOL's chief executive, and the company's interactive services president Barry Schuler also will give depositions, a spokesman for the online giant said. All of the depositions will be open to the public.

Microsoft claims that the deal, which resulted in AOL's $10 billion buyout of Netscape, is fatal to the antitrust lawsuit filed last year by the Justice Department (DOJ) and 19 states. The suit alleges that Microsoft is a monopolist that used its dominance to put Netscape and others out of business.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson granted Microsoft's emergency motion to seek information about the deal, which also calls for Sun to develop and resell Netscape's browser and server products.

Jackson's order required that Case give his deposition about the deal, along with three executives from each of the companies involved.

The deposition announcements come just days before the remaining six witnesses to be called at trial will be announced. Neither side has said who they will call, but speculation runs high that Case, Gateway chief executive Ted Waitt, and economists for each side will be among the final witnesses. The names are expected to be revealed on Monday. Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates has also been mentioned as a potential witness.

A key element of the government's case is proving that Microsoft has monopoly power. Microsoft says the AOL-Netscape-Sun deal proves that the Redmond, Washington, company does not have the enduring market power characteristic of monopoly, its attorneys argue. Microsoft critics, meanwhile, say that the merger has done nothing to curb Microsoft's alleged monopoly in the operating system market.