Collaboration or confrontation? Microsoft accuses Novell.

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Did Microsoft rivals conspire to play collaborators while proclaiming the injustice of their situations? That was the latest tack taken by Miicrosoft lawyers who sought to discredit one of its fiercest opponents by introducing evidence that it played both sides of the antitrust case.

Nine states are asking U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to force Microsoft to create a stripped-down version of its flagship Windows software that could incorporate competitors' features. The states also want Microsoft to divulge the blueprints for its Internet Explorer browser.

According to Microsoft, software firm Novell provided evidence to the US government in its pursuit of Microsoft, while also offering to help if it agreed to make Novell's software work better with Microsoft products.

In documents submitted as Miicrosoft evidence, Chief Technology Officer Carl Ledbetter wrote that Novell and Microsoft officials would meet ``to discuss how Novell could help Microsoft in its current legal discussions.''

Ledbetter has said that his goal was to ``induce Microsoft to become aware that having a greater interoperability with us can help them in their current legal problems.'' But prior to this,
Novell had submitted complaints to the Justice Department and states suing Microsoft for unlawfully hindering competition.

Microsoft’s lawyers claim that Ledbetter offered them a deal whereby he would talk with the Justice Department and certain senators if a deal could be done.

Meanwhile Microsoft also laid into Palm, producing documents which it claims prove that the handheld firm submitted written changes to the states' penalties that would benefit Palm.

States that rejected the government's settlement with Microsoft and have continued to pursue the antitrust case are Iowa, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Kansas, Florida, Minnesota and West Virginia, along with the District of Columbia.

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