The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked an appeals court to speed up the return to court of the Microsoft antitrust case.

The DOJ and the 18 state attorneys general who are plaintiffs in the case argue in the court-filing that the case should be expedited. They said: "A delay in imposing an effective remedy inflicts substantial and widespread consumer injury and needlessly prolongs uncertainty in the computer industry."

Moving "as quickly as possible" is in the public interest, the government said in the document. Microsoft's operating system is used in about 90 per cent of the world's PCs, and so the antitrust case has direct bearing on businesses and industries and therefore should be resolved quickly, the government said.

Microsoft has 10 days to submit its response to the DOJ's request. Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said: "We're still reviewing this but in general, we share the goal of trying to get the remaining issues resolved. We continue to review the long and complex appeals court ruling."

The Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled late last month that Microsoft has illegally used its monopoly power in the market for desktop operating systems. But the court overturned an earlier ruling to break Microsoft in two and ordered that the case be returned to the District Court, where it was first tried. A new judge is to reconsider the "remedy" that will be imposed on Microsoft.

The Appeals Court ruling said the case would go back to the trial court in mid-August, allowing time for either side of the case to ask for a rehearing. The motion filed Friday by the DOJ said that the government won't ask for a rehearing and further does not intend to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.

A source close to Microsoft said the company has yet to make its decision about whether to ask the Appeals Court for a rehearing.

"Typically someone like Microsoft wants to take its time to figure out if it wants to go to the Supreme Court," said Marc Schildkraut, a partner with Washington, law firm Howrey Simon Arnold & White: "I think there are good reasons for them to do that."

Microsoft is expected to release Windows XP, the next version of its operating system on October 25. Some legal experts who have followed the case have said the government is likely to seek an injunction to stop that from happening.

"It's going to be interesting to see how Microsoft responds," said Mark Schechter, a former official in the DOJ antitrust division and a partner with the law firm Howrey Simon Arnold & White. "It wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft takes an appeal to the Supreme Court, to delay the case past the Windows XP launch date."