WASHINGTON -- A federal judge said Friday he quickly removed Internet browser software from the Windows 95 computer system, disputing Microsoft's contention that its system will not perform properly without the program.
The procedure took 90 seconds, and "Windows 95 functioned flawlessly as it was intended to operate," U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said. A courthouse technician showed him how, he said.
Nevertheless, he scheduled a Jan. 13 hearing for "designated spokespeople" from both the Justice Department and Microsoft Corp. to argue the question of whether the two programs can be separated without impairing their operation.
Judge Jackson had issued a preliminary injunction Dec. 11 ordering Microsoft to quit requiring manufacturers to distribute the Explorer browser program as a condition of installing its popular Windows operating system on personal computers. A browser enables a computer user to find and retrieve information on the Internet.
The Justice Department has asked Judge Jackson to hold Microsoft in contempt of court in the case.
Brad Smith, Microsoft's associate general counsel, said the company welcomed the chance for the January hearing. "This is an issue of high technology. It is important that the court have the opportunity" to hear from technical experts rather than lawyers, he said.
Mr. Smith said Windows has 14 million lines of computer code, more than the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control program, and "we simply can't slice and dice it with a legal meat cleaver."
Judge Jackson also appointed Lawrence Lessig, a leading national expert on technology law at Harvard University, as a "special master" to study the issues and make recommendations by the end of May.