The judge at the centre of the antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the US Department of Justice yesterday allowed Microsoft critics to take further part in the litigation.

District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly offered these parties the chance to participate in the hearing, providing them with an opportunity to present new arguments against the proposed settlement terms. The critics include: SBC Communications, an advocacy group funded by Microsoft competitors including Sun Microsystems; a group of states that is pushing for tougher sanctions against the software maker; and several other parties that claim an interest in the case.

The Project to Promote Competition & Innovation in the Digital Age, also known as ProComp, was given "friend of the court status" by the judge, which means it will be allowed to submit a 25-page document with the court detailing its opposition to the proposed settlement. The group will also be allowed to present a 10-minute oral argument during the hearing, scheduled to begin Wednesday.

Players SBC was granted permission to participate under similar terms, as were the Computer & Communications Industry Association, the Software and Information Industry Association and the American Antitrust Institute.

Additionally, Microsoft has submitted a motion in which it argues that if the settlement is approved, the judge should dismiss the case being pushed by the other states for tougher remedies.