Microsoft foes say it violates settlement terms

A trade group made up of Microsoft Corp. competitors has again sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) claiming that the software maker is not living up to its end of a proposed settlement deal in its long-running antitrust bout.

This time, ProComp, or the Project to Promote Competition and Innovation in the Digital Age, claims that Microsoft has fallen short of meeting a requirement to make available core software code that will allow competitors to tune their software to work well with Windows.

Microsoft reached an agreement almost one year ago with the DOJ and later with nine state attorneys general who were also plaintiffs in the antitrust suit. A federal judge is expected to make a decision on the settlement deal any day now. However, Microsoft has already begun implementing some of the required changes.

For one, the Redmond, Washington, software maker agreed to license certain communication protocols that would allow competing developers to build desktop and server software that enjoy the same hooks into Windows as products developed by Microsoft.

"It is our strong conclusion that the information disclosure regime imposed by Microsoft has been a failure to date," ProComp wrote in a letter addressed to Charles James, the assistant attorney general for antitrust with the DOJ.

ProComp, which is backed by Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp., takes issue with the licensing terms to which developers must agree in order to view the technical information. Microsoft requires licensees to pay fees and sign strict nondisclosure agreements (NDA) before they can even view the protocols.

ProComp argued in its letter that such terms are onerous and prevent companies from evaluating the effectiveness of the protocols. They also argue that because even the licensing terms are kept secret, the "reasonableness" of those terms cannot be evaluated.

"They must be licensed on terms that make it practical for others to license and redistribute the technology," the letter stated.

Microsoft's legal spokesman Jim Desler denied the allegations. "Anybody who is interested in or serious about licensing the communication protocols can go through this very straightforward process," he said. "And a number have."

He noted that the communication protocols are valuable intellectual property and represent years of research and development for the company. To that end, Desler argued that the licensing procedures are adequate and follow industry standard practices.

Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. also has taken issue with the disclosure policies, although it isn't represented in ProComp's complaint, according to Mark Webbink, senior vice president and general counsel for the Raleigh, North Carolina, software maker.

"We have expressed our opinion to the DOJ that the mechanisms Microsoft has put in place to be able to utilize their proprietary protocols are inconsistent with the terms of the (settlement proposal)," Webbink said. "Those mechanisms include a requirement to sign up to Passport in order to obtain an NDA, thus disclosing who you are and providing Microsoft with the ability to determine that you are not acceptable."

ProComp's letter dated Oct. 22 is the second in two months that challenges Microsoft's efforts to comply with the deal. In September, the group sent a letter to the DOJ claiming that the software maker did not make Windows XP Service Pack 1 "readily accessible to consumers." That set of software fixes and updates includes a number of features that Microsoft was required to include, such as the ability to set the operating system to launch non-Microsoft Web browsers and media players upon startup.

The DOJ has been meeting with some companies that have taken issue with Microsoft's compliance, according to Red Hat's Webbink, who has been in contact with DOJ officials. However, Microsoft denied reports that characterized the DOJ's discussions as a second investigation into the company's competitive behavior. "There's an ongoing dialog with the DOJ to ensure that we're fully implementing the consent decree," Desler said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Berger

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?