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October 17, 2007

States seek to extend judicial oversight of Microsoft

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 1:54 PM

On Tuesday, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia formally asked the judge overseeing the soon-to-expire antitrust settlement between Microsoft and state and federal governments to extend it for five years.

Major provisions of the settlement are due to expire Nov. 12, while some other provisions around technical documentation have already been extended for two years. The filing (26-page PDF) cites "continuing problems" with the availability of documentation, and how the lack of documentation has hampered competitors ability to benefit from the settlement.

The main focus is on the portions of the settlement regarding middleware -- software that runs on top of the operating system, such as media players and Web browsers. The states say these provisions need more time to work.

The settlement "has yet to pry open the OEM channel of distribution to competitive browsers, because no major OEM currently distributes a browser other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE)," the California group of states wrote.

That's important because:


"Many new middleware technologies are just now appearing that may, in the near
future, pose a competitive threat to Microsoft's operating system monopoly.
These technologies substantially depend upon the browser. Because Microsoft
still retains control of the OEM channel for browser distribution, in part because
its illegal conduct with respect to IE has not yet been fully remedied, it is critical
that [the middleware provisions] be continued until these technologies mature."

The filing Tuesday followed a request the states made at a hearing in Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's courtroom in September to extend oversight.

That request followed conflicting reports from the various government parties to the settlement on its effectiveness.

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