Microsoft cops a break

Microsoft has scored itself an unscheduled breather as the US Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal against a break up immediately.

The refusal means the matter will be heard by the Court of Appeal, which has been more receptive to the software giant in its long running dispute with the US Department of Justice. The decision also gives Microsoft time to pursue its appeals and relieves the pressure of having to return to the bargaining table so soon.

Microsoft is seeking to overturn the ruling made last June in the District Court - that the company was illegally stifling competition and should be broken into two arms, one dealing with operating systems and the other handling application software.

Microsoft opposed the US Government's request for an immediate review, saying it would "impose an extraordinary burden on the court" and there was no reason to deviate from standard procedure of using the court of appeal to narrow the complex legal issues and the voluminous nature of the trial record. Yesterday the US Supreme Court agreed.