Can it be? Can "Redmond Justice" really be drawing to a close? It may surprise you to hear that courtroom testimony in the highly-rated antitrust drama has actually been over for nine months now. Yes, nine months-- in the time since the last witness left the stand, a human child could have been conceived, carried to term, and brought into the world crying as if at the sheer wretchedness of Microsoft's crimes, and yet we still have neither a settlement nor a verdict. So, given that little factoid, we can't fault anyone for thinking that the case might indeed stretch on forever, living on as yet another of life's little constants: death, taxes, and "Redmond Justice." But don't get too comfortable with that world view just yet, Sparky; Judge Jackson's just kicked the action into overdrive.
According to an Associated Press article, Jackson actually gave a deadline: settle out of court by Tuesday, or else he'd issue his verdict. Now, Microsoft may be a lot of things (ruthless, amoral, deceitful, and shameless all spring to mind), but stupid ain't one of 'em; the folks in Redmond are fully aware that Jackson's about as likely to side with Microsoft as he is to show up to court wearing a pink feather boa and singing Ethel Merman's greatest hits. So Tuesday is the "drop dead" date for a settlement-- quite literally. Suddenly settlement negotiations seem to be making some actual progress. At least this stunt's got both sides talking.
The thing is, they're still not exactly talking to each other. And what they're all saying seems to be more of the same old yammering. Microsoft reportedly faxed its latest settlement offer to Boies and the gang on Friday, agreeing to let the government regulate some of its business practices on the condition that the company gets to retain its-- all together, now-- "freedom to innovate." In other words, they want carte blanche to keep cramming free applications into their operating system in order to "Netscape" their competitors right out of the market. Oh, and it's said that Microsoft has also offered to publish some of the Windows APIs, which currently give it an unfair technical advantage in the applications market-- provided the company doesn't have to admit any wrongdoing. How 'bout that.
Well, as of early Friday evening, it appears that no government lawyers were falling all over themselves to get to Chicago to negotiate this latest proposal, but the weekend's still young. Since the current buzz is that the government is "no longer pursuing" a Microsoft breakup, they may well accept the company's offer with no more than a few minor changes. If that happens, we will have witnessed the most lackluster final episode since Seinfeld and Mad About You were duking it out for the Series Finale Anticlimax Awards. Here's hoping for something a bit more fulfilling...