SEATTLE (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. will ask a federal judge for access to internal U.S. Justice Department documents regarding the government's plan to break up the software giant.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said Tuesday that Microsoft plans on a long discovery process _ where the company will ask for the documents and possibly cross-examine government experts _ to determine how the government came up with its proposal.

On Friday, the Justice Department and 17 states asked the federal judge in the courts to break Microsoft into two separate companies _ one for its operating system business and the other for its other software enterprises _ and place temporary restraints on its business practices.

Microsoft is scheduled to file its response to the agency's proposed remedy in the antitrust case with U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson on May 10.

Jackson had hoped to hold hearings on any possible remedies on May 24, but Microsoft's general counsel, William Neukom, told The New York Times on Monday that the discovery effort could last ``well into the fall.''

The judge is not bound to accept Microsoft's request. He has said he wants to complete the remedy phase quickly. Microsoft made a similar request for months of delay to prepare for the opening of the trial two years ago, and Jackson rejected it.

This time, however, Jackson may be more inclined to grant Microsoft some leeway, according to William Kovacic, an antitrust expert at the George Washington University School of Law.

``It seems that the general principle is sound,'' Kovacic said. ``A solution of this magnitude deserves a careful assessment, and I think Jackson will err on the side of caution.''

Government officials have said that Microsoft is stalling, possibly to delay a ruling on a remedy until the next presidential administration takes office.

In theory, a new administration could settle or drop the federal case at any time. But the parallel case brought by 19 state attorneys general who are the Justice Department's partners in the case would remain active, and the attorneys general have repeatedly said they will persevere.

The company is also going through internal changes, continuing to reorganize and push forward with a new high-level vision for its future software. While the company has said the DOJ case will not affect development, putting off any remedies helps company executives make those changes.

Microsoft argues that the government's breakup proposal will make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for it to develop innovative products that result from putting together a wide range of software technologies.