UPDATE - Judge tells Microsoft to give code to plaintiffs

The judge hearing nine US states' antitrust complaint against Microsoft has instructed the software giant to open the source code for recent versions of the Windows operating system to the plaintiffs.

          The judge hearing nine US states' antitrust complaint against Microsoft has instructed the software giant to open the source code for recent versions of the Windows operating system to the plaintiffs.

          District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly told lawyers for both sides that Microsoft should provide the states with access to the source code for Windows, including XP and XP Embedded. The conversation with the attorneys took place on a conference call Friday, according to Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler.

          During liability and settlement phases of the trial, the states had access to some Windows code, though not to XP Embedded, Desler notes. XP Embedded, launched last November, was designed in a modular fashion and is aimed at devices such as thin clients, industrial automation systems, point-of-sale machines, and set-top boxes.

          One of the issues in the case has been Microsoft's contention that it is not feasible to sell Windows without other functionality such as web browsing bundled in, because stripping out those features would cripple the OS. The states have asked for access to the proprietary code so that a technical adviser could review the code and ascertain the truth of Microsoft's claim.

          The states and Microsoft will work together to come up with a protective order governing use of the code made available to the plaintiff states, Desler says.

          Kollar-Kotelly has split the government's antitrust case against Microsoft into two tracks, one for the settling states and the US Department of Justice, and another for the nine states that are not participating in the settlement. Hearings on antitrust remedies sought by the non-settling states are set for March.

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