The long-running Microsoft antitrust trial took yet another twist on Thursday when the 17 state governments involved hired their own high-profile lawyer to separate their interests from those of the US Federal Government.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ), now overseen by the pro-business Bush administration, is viewed as taking too soft an approach to Microsoft.
This has antagonised the states and the District of Columbia, which are co-prosecutors in the three year-old case.
State prosecutors have now hired Brendan Sullivan, one of Washington's most prominent lawyers, who once represented Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal, to push their agenda should no settlement be reached by 2 November and more hearings start next March.
US newspapers report that the hiring of Sullivan reflects ongoing uncertainty among the states about how aggressively the DoJ is pursuing the case. The states were shocked when Bush's DoJ stopped pushing for a break-up of Microsoft.
Even more surprising was the fact that the DoJ decided not to pursue the tying charges of illegally linking Internet Explorer with the operating system, which was thought by many to be the heart of the matter.
Since the DoJ backed away from the tying issue, Microsoft has gone ahead with adding new non-operating system features to XP, which it launched on Thursday.
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