In a terse, two-sentence statement the US Court of Appeals in Washington yesterday rejected Microsoft's request for a rehearing on part of the antitrust case ruling issued by the panel in late June.

Last month Microsoft tried to appeal for a rehearing on the basis that it feared the recent decision against it would lead PC makers to be allowed to separate Windows from its Internet Explorer web browser.

Making Windows and Internet Explorer inseparable was a central tenet in the US government's case against Microsoft. The appeals court agreed with the findings that the so-called 'commingling' of Internet Explorer and Windows code violated antitrust laws. The appeals court said, in part, that such commingling "has an anticompetitive effect" on rival web browsers.

Today's decision puts the case on track to be handed over to a lower court by next Friday for consideration of possible remedies against the software vendor.

The software vendor claimed in its rehearing petition that the appeals court either 'overlooked or misinterpreted' evidence on the 'commingling' issue. Microsoft said the decision could be read "to suggest that [PC makers] should be given the option of removing the software code in Windows 98… that is specific to web browsing", a notion that it wanted to quash.

In the petition, Microsoft repeated previous claims that it didn't do any commingling of code and said the government itself argued that removing end-user access to Internet Explorer was akin to eliminating the browser altogether. Microsoft already took that step last month, when it announced Windows licensing changes that include allowing PC makers to remove Internet Explorer entries and icons from the operating system's Start menu.