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6/23/2008
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Microsoft Deleted Windows Interoperability Documents, Feds Say

The court-mandated committee overseeing Microsoft's compliance with a federal antitrust settlement said the software company broke a pact when it removed some information.

Microsoft has stopped publishing some of the technical documentation that rival software makers may need to make their products interoperable with the Windows operating system, according to a court-mandated committee overseeing Microsoft's compliance with a federal antitrust settlement.

"Microsoft removed a number of protocol elements that were included in previous versions of the documentation," said the so-called Technical Committee, in a report issued last week.

The committee, which said it was "concerned" about the situation, did not specify how many protocols Microsoft has removed from its publicly available interoperability documentation. It added that, in removing the information, Microsoft broke a pact with the committee under which it agreed not to remove protocol elements "without first discussing it with the TC."

The committee conceded that some of the missing documentation may not be useful to third party developers if it's concerned only with operations that occur within the Windows server environment and don't involve external applications.

But it said that it doesn't know what processes are governed by the deleted material because Microsoft has done a poor job documenting changes to its interoperability documentation. "Currently, it's difficult to tell exactly what has changed," said the committee.

The Technical Committee also reported that it recently received a new build of Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista, from Microsoft and is checking it for any features that might violate the antitrust 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.

The Technical Committee's work was revealed in the most recent status report on Microsoft's compliance with the 2002 antitrust settlement, under which the company agreed to make its products interoperable with those made by rivals. The report was filed last week in federal court for the District of Columbia.

In its report, the committee also blasted Microsoft for reducing its publishing schedule for technical updates for developers from monthly to quarterly. "The TC's experience with this has not been positive," the committee wrote. "It creates a longer lag time between the identification of issues in the documentation and the publication of fixes to those issues," the committee said.

In response, Microsoft said it's "working on the frequency with which it publishes protocol documentation."

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