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4/23/2009
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Judge Extends Fed Scrutiny Of Microsoft 18 Months

The Department of Justice claims the software maker is not fully complying with an antitrust agreement.

A federal judge on Wednesday granted a Justice Department request to monitor Microsoft's operations for at least another 18 months in order to ensure that the company fully complies with an antitrust settlement under which it must share Windows product information with competitors.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of U.S. District Court in D.C., extended federal oversight of Microsoft to May 12, 2011. Government scrutiny of the software maker was slated to end this November.

In a statement, DOJ said it has "concerns with the quality of the technical documentation Microsoft provides to licensees under this program and with the length of time it is taking Microsoft to improve that documentation." As a result, DOJ said it has asked to extend court scrutiny of Microsoft until at least mid-2011.

Earlier this year, the court-appointed committee overseeing Microsoft's compliance with the antitrust settlement said it was taking a close look at the company's next major operating system to ensure that it meets the settlement's terms. The Technical Committee in December received a build of Windows 7 Beta from Microsoft and is checking it for any features that might violate the agreement.

Presumably most heavily under scrutiny is whether the OS causes host computers to favor Microsoft applications over third-party software -- a practice the federal government cited in its original complaint against the company. Court documents also indicated that Technical Committee experts no longer will build prototype systems to test the interoperability documents that Microsoft is supplying, given the volume of documentation that the effort is generating.

The U.S. government sued Microsoft for antitrust violations in 1998, alleging that the company was using its dominant position in the software market to stifle competition. Under a 2001 settlement, Microsoft agreed to share documentation with rivals and to take other steps to promote the interoperability of Windows with third-party applications.

Microsoft plans to release a final version of Windows 7 in late 2009 or early 2010.

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