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Night Watch *Extra*: Turning the Spotlight on Microsoft's Postclose Action

Find out everything you need to know about how the software giant fared in after-hours trading.

A resounding "eh" could be heard this evening as late-night traders reacted favorably to news that Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Free Report was found guilty in its antitrust dispute.

In after-hours trading, the ruling initially shook markets, sending Microsoft lower after it came out of its news-dissemination halt at 5:44 p.m. EDT. After that brief and minor dip, Microsoft began trading at a furious clip and found its groove. It rose 2 3/64 to 92 59/64 on 1.3 million shares on


and 1 17/32 to 92 11/32 on 535,000 shares on



This upward move was a unilateral one, helping Microsoft recover some of today's bone-crunching 15-point hit. As of 8 p.m. EDT, this was how Mister Softee looked on five leading ECNs.

At 5 p.m., U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson revealed the

eagerly anticipated ruling in Microsoft's antitrust case with the U.S. government. Microsoft was found guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, legislation created to dismantle the oil fiefdoms and empires of steel 100 years ago.

has more in-depth coverage of the ruling and the fallout in a

special section.

Microsoft responded to the ruling in a 6 p.m. press conference, saying it would try to find new ways of settling the dispute and that it had a strong case on appeal. Most disheartening was a statement that tonight's ruling was "just one step" in a process that could take years. It looks like this one'll be on television for a while longer.

Here's a look at how Bill Gates fared both before and after the news hit on Island. Again, all times are EDT.

As you can see, investors were initially confused on how to react to the ruling. That's fairly common, though. It's not like this case is the kind Matlock specializes in. There's no way to boil months and months of litigation down to a point where it's instantly digestible.

But all along the way,

has covered every twist and turn of the Microsoft antitrust case. Perusing the online archives is a fascinating way to see how this case evolved. The most painless and efficient way of refreshing the ol' Microsoft litigation memories would be to check out's

section on Judge Jackson's findings-of-fact ruling in November. In this package, also called

The Microsoft Decision,

dissected the now five-month-old ruling, while offering a refresher course.

For those of you unwilling to click, the government accused Microsoft of having an unlawful monopoly on computer operating systems and using illegal means to stay in that powerful position. In his November finding of fact ruling, Judge Jackson said that Microsoft had a monopoly, something that James Seymour, in a

column written just after the story broke, said was a "head fake" designed to get Microsoft to go to the table and negotiate earnestly.

Or else.

Since November, some interesting things have occurred with both Microsoft and the case in general. Chairman Bill Gates

quit his CEO post, leaving his baby in Steve Ballmer's hands while taking a new position closer to the company's technological heart. Microsoft

teased opening its source code before

re-entering a courtroom in late February after taking a few months off to negotiate.

Meanwhile, talks between Microsoft and the government went from

promising to

futile as Judge Jackson

gave the sides time to work out an agreement before releasing his findings.

Over the weekend, the final extension came and went as talks broke down.

Jackson then issued his ruling this evening, and now Microsoft will appeal.

For a look at tonight's overall postclose trading picture, see The Night Watch.