Bill gets his day in court - maybe!

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The seemingly never-ending Microsoft antitrust case has thrown up another row over subpoenas, this time between the Redmond giant and its arch bete noir Oracle.

Under the tentative federal antitrust settlement agreed, Microsoft would submit to a number of restrictions on its business conduct and licensing practices designed to give rival software makers the ability to design and market software that runs on Windows. But a number of non-settling states contend those measures are littered with loopholes that will allow Microsoft to continue the illegal, anticompetitive conduct found during an antitrust trial and upheld by a federal appeals court.

They want Microsoft to offer a stripped-down version of its monopoly Windows operating system and to license its popular suite of Office software products to ensure that it's compatible with non-Windows operating systems. This would also level the playing field for applications software vendors.

In a federal court filing Friday, Microsoft claims Oracle has "continued to stonewall" on producing documents related to the Oracle's talks with the states that have refused to sign on to a federal settlement of the antitrust case. For its part, Oracle says it hasn’t yet reviewed "any current legal requests from Microsoft, but added: "We strongly believe that any motions that involve Oracle at this point in the process are likely presented as a delaying tactic and are not aimed at determining an appropriate remedy for Microsoft's monopolistic conduct, which is the central issue of this case.”

The dispute appears to have begun in December when Microsoft issued a subpoena to Oracle and a deposition subpoena to the company's chief corporate architect, Edward Screven, one of the witnesses on a preliminary list offered by the states. Oracle allegedly produced only a handful of documents, then announced that Screven wouldn't be a witness, which meant Microsoft was no longer entitled to documents.

Microsoft meanwhile decided that Oracle Vice President Ken Glueck was "one of the prime movers" behind the non-settling states' remedy proposals and has sought to depose him as well.

Meanwhile Bill Gates may finally get his day in court as he confirmed that both he and CEO Steve Ballmer would testify if necessary when the antitrust trial resumes next month. This would clearly be a high risk strategy: it was videotaped testimony by Gates that was one of the most powerful pieces of evidence against the company earlier in the case.

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