Senior Microsoft executives, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, may take the stand when the software giant appears before a US court judge next month for appeal hearings on its ongoing antitrust legal fight.
The Redmond-based software manufacturer had declined to name its top brass as witnesses in the original case last year. But now, Gates and Ballmer have joined 19 others listed as expert witnesses for the forthcoming appeal.
Microsoft presented Judge Kollar-Kotelly with a list of 21 experts it may call in its defence. As well as a glut of senior Microsoft executives, the list also includes representatives from other software makers, PC manufacturers and venture capitalists.
But Gates and Ballmer could yet avoid taking the stand. Both are listed as tentative witnesses, and could be withdrawn if a settlement looks likely to be reached with the nine dissenting states.
Sixteen witnesses have been listed for the nine states. They will call on former Netscape chief executive James Barksdale, and former Intel executive Steven McGeady.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly is scheduled to begin the hearing on 11 March. She will examine the settlement reached between Microsoft and the Department of Justice last year. Nine US states have opposed this settlement, pushing for stronger sanctions to be taken against Microsoft.
Under the original settlement, Microsoft would be prohibited from engaging in anti-competitive practices, and be forced to share technical information with its industry partners.
The nine states argue that the settlement does little to address future concerns. They believe it would allow Microsoft to abuse its dominant position in new markets, just as it did with its web browser.
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