Feds Eye Windows 7 For Antitrust Violations

Government experts seek to ensure that new OS meets the terms of the 2001 Microsoft settlement.
The court-mandated committee overseeing Microsoft's compliance with a federal antitrust settlement is taking a close look at the company's next major operating system to ensure that it meets the settlement's terms.

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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, according to a document filed Wednesday by the federal government in U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C.

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.

Earlier this week, the European Commission filed an objection with Microsoft over its bundling of the Internet Explorer browser with Windows.

The court document noted 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.

"In light of the number of new documents that need to be reviewed, the TC is going to shift its focus to direct review of the documents by the TC's engineers," the government said. "The revised strategy will enable the TC to review the new Windows 7 and system documents more thoroughly than it would otherwise."

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. The trial version is available to the public as a free download from the company's Web site.