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U.S. MUST NOT LET MICROSOFT OFF THE HOOK

Even before terrorism came to America's shores, indications pointed to the Justice Department's desire to settle its case against Microsoft. No doubt that's even more so now. . . .

But history has shown you can't approach Microsoft from a position of weakness and expect cooperation or compliance. If the Justice Department begins to view Microsoft as a nuisance, not a priority, it will miss its best and perhaps last chance to curb the company's predatory behavior. . . .

Microsoft remains confident that time's on its side and obstinate that it's done nothing wrong, even though two courts have ruled it broke the law. The Justice Department recommended that hearings on the penalty phase of the Microsoft trial begin no later than early February. Even that delay . . . is disappointing. It would be a full three months after XP, the new Windows operating system, goes on sale, putting the government another furlong behind the effort to keep Microsoft from broadening its reach over new software applications.

But Microsoft is claiming it would need even more preparation -- six months -- before beginning the hearings. And it wants the new District Court judge in the case to narrow the range of possible penalties. . . .

If the company is open to bargaining, it's not letting on publicly. It also may have little incentive to compromise if it perceives Justice is anxious to settle. . . . Justice should hang tough on Microsoft. . . .

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