The nine states seeking tougher remedies against Microsoft in the antitrust case want the court to appoint an independent expert, or panel of experts, to examine the Windows operating system source code.

They believe an expert will support their contention that Microsoft can produce a stripped down version of the Windows operating system. Microsoft claims this isn't possible.

In a motion to District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the states said Microsoft predicted this proposed remedy "would lead to the destruction of the company, set the computer industry back at least 25 years and do untold damage to the economy".

"To substantiate these predictions of doom, Microsoft has repeatedly argued that it is impossible, as a technical matter to comply," the states wrote. Both sides plan to call technical witnesses to argue their respective points, but the states are arguing that "the interest of justice would be best served" by the court's own expert.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said: "It's not a mystery that our competitors are working hand-in-hand with the states on this case and will stop at nothing to get access to our intellectual property."

Any court-appointed experts are likely to undergo a thorough examination of their background.