It's been a rough three months for Microsoft. The software company has been hit with more Justice Department oversight, slapped with $357 million in new European fines, and heard Europe's top trustbuster threaten to crack down on Windows Vista when it arrives. So it's trying a new approach to get government off its back: more self-regulation.
Microsoft's lead lawyer last week said the company will hew to 12 "principles" of Windows development that would make the computer market fairer for PC makers, programmers, and customers. "Computer manufacturers get to decide what goes on a PC when it goes out the door, but users get to decide what remains on a PC once it's in their home," general counsel Brad Smith says.
The company in the past has agreed to end discriminatory pricing and other tactics meant to squelch the use of non-Microsoft products. But the Justice Department says Microsoft hasn't lived up to its end of the deal. And officials in Europe say many of Microsoft's products have an unfair advantage because they work better with Windows than rival products do.
Most of Smith's promises rehash deals the company already reached with regulators, but there are a couple of new concessions. Microsoft vows not to tie its Windows Live Web software to desktop Windows and will let PC makers set default search engines to rivals like Google and Yahoo.
Microsoft hopes these moves will satisfy regulators, who seem increasingly unhappy with the company. Principles are nice, but U.S. and European monitors will want more than good intentions.