Justice Department Plans To Extend Legal Oversight Of Microsoft

The Justice Department plans to oversee Microsoft until November 2009 while Microsoft rewrites a technical manual for Windows communications protocols. European regulators also want Microsoft to rewrite docs.

Aaron Ricadela, Contributor

May 12, 2006

2 Min Read

Microsoft is in trouble on both sides of the Atlantic for failure to publish a workable guide for letting other companies' server software work well with Windows.

The Justice Department said Friday it reached an agreement with Microsoft to extend its legal oversight of the company by two more years, until November 2009, pending approval by a federal judge in Washington. Microsoft agreed to the deal so that it could rewrite a technical manual for Windows communications protocols that the Department has criticized as sloppy and dense. The requirement stems from an antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the government in 2002. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia also joined in the filing to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

Terms of the Justice Department's original settlement with Microsoft had been due to expire in late 2007. But Microsoft agreed to extend some regulations to give it time to rework a lengthy technical document it had been ordered to produce as part of its communications protocol licensing program, which aims to loosen Microsoft's ability to leverage its desktop Windows monopoly in the market for server software. Regulators have blasted earlier drafts of the document as late and incomprehensible.

European Union regulators have also ordered a rewrite of a separate manual under a 2004 antitrust judgment against Microsoft. The company is appealing the verdict and in January said it would license some of its patented Windows source code to quell complaints in Europe.

According to the Department's court filing, Microsoft assigned the senior VP of its servers and tools business, Bob Muglia, to analyze the documentation problem and try to produce a new draft of the guide to Microsoft's server communications protocols that would satisfy rivals and federal regulators. But "Mr. Muglia and his team ultimately concluded that the current process of trying to fix issues...one at a time was unlikely," the filing said. Now, according to the court paper, "Microsoft will rewrite substantial portions of the documentation." As part of the Justice Department's extended oversight of the company, Microsoft has agreed to keep Muglia in charge of the project until it's done, or the court orders otherwise. Microsoft has also agreed to make Muglia available for updates to the court.

Microsoft issued a statement Friday in which it said it would license its communications protocols even after the court order expires, as well as make its engineers available to licensees for technical assistance.

In Europe, Microsoft competitors IBM, Novell, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems had reviewed Microsoft's programming manual, which was deemed sub par by the European Union's head antitrust regulator. In January, Microsoft said it would license source code to its Windows communications protocols, but so far has found no takers.

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