A computer science professor and lead technical expert for the nine states in the antitrust case against Microsoft was appointed to inspect Microsoft's Windows OS source code yesterday.

Professor Lee Hollaar, along with other unnamed experts, will determine whether Microsoft is correct in its argument that it is technically impossible to ship a version of its operating system without other applications, such as its Web browser or media player.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have asked the court to force Microsoft to ship a stripped-down version of its operating system as a remedy for its antitrust violations.

Breakdown Microsoft balked at the demand, and the hold-out states have asked the District Court to have the code checked by an independent party to confirm whether it can be picked apart.

District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied the state's motion that asked the court to appoint a technical expert, instead handing the task to Hollaar, who has been an expert witness on several Microsoft court cases.

Hollaar was granted access to review the source code of Windows XP Home and Professional Editions during the mediation phase of the antitrust case when the DOJ, the 18 suing states and the District of Columbia attempted to work out a deal with Microsoft, the court order said.

Hollaar provided paid consulting services to the DOJ in 1995 in connection with a matter involving Microsoft.

Microsoft had previously fought Hollaar's participation in the antitrust case, arguing that the professor "has made something of a career of testifying against Microsoft".