Microsoft and US Department of Justice (DOJ) officials have agreed to a briefing schedule that could let the US Supreme Court decide if it wants to hear the antitrust case by the third quarter of this year.

The two parties accepted an accelerated schedule that sets up briefing meetings in late July and August. If the justices decide to hear Microsoft's appeal, they will begin their 2000 to 2001 session on the first Monday of October, and could make a final ruling by June 2001.

US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered Microsoft be split into two companies earlier this month - an operating system firm and an applications company - along with a set of behavioural remedies. Jackson has since suspended the remedies until all appeals are reviewed.

According to the schedule posted Thursday, Microsoft would detail its opposition to Jackson's ruling by July 26. DOJ officials and the US states involved in the case would respond by August 15. Microsoft counsel could reply by August 22.