Microsoft, DoJ Resolve Latest Antitrust Dispute


WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice (DoJ) said Tuesday Microsoft is
“generally moving in the right direction” in its compliance efforts with the
landmark 2002 antitrust settlement between the company and the DoJ.


Earlier this month, the DoJ complained in a required status report that
Microsoft wanted to distribute documentation for licensees in a rights-protected file format,
derivative of HTML, that can only be used with
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser.


“I think we have resolved the distribution issue. It’s one more thing we can
check off the list,” DoJ attorney Renata Hesse told U.S. District Judge
Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who was holding a quarterly compliance status court
session.


As a result of the complaint, Microsoft agreed to
provide new documentation versions and regular updates to licensees on CD-ROMs,
as well as through the current online method.


Microsoft attorney Charles Rule told Kollar-Kotelly the protected document
format, known as MHT, could be viewed through browsers other than IE,
although he was not aware of any other browsers that supported MHT.
Microsoft also said it offers a free software toolkit for developers to
decode and read the MHT files using another browser.


“The company rewrote the technical documentation first for eBooks and then
we looked around for more flexibility and security and decided on MHT,” Rule
said. “Both sides are working in good faith.”


Microsoft contends MHT offers the best available combination of navigational
and usability features, a familiar viewer interface, ability to handle large
document files and security of the documentation.


The 2002 settlement between Microsoft and the DOJ requires Microsoft to
license parts of its Communications Protocol Program (MCPP) technology so
competitors can develop competitive products that work seamlessly with
Windows. Rule said 19 companies have so far licensed the MCPP protocol.


Since the last report to the court in July, Microsoft said it has
implemented changes to the MCPP to incorporate feedback from the technical
committee monitoring Microsoft’s compliance. The 40-page beta MCPP
specification was distributed to approximately 100 individual users at
licensee companies.


The MCPP documentation beta version, according to Microsoft, includes a
number of new features, such as a searchable index, text search capability,
an “ever present” table of contents and enhanced error codes.


Microsoft, with the approval of the technical committee, has extended the
beta documentation to Nov. 15 and now says it may be as early as next year
before a final version is ready.


“It’s taking much longer than any of us had hoped,” Hesse said.

Rule told
Kollar-Kotelly that “we’re always going to be improving documentation,” but
Microsoft is aiming for a January completion date of the MCPP documentation.


Along with the MCPP documentation, the DoJ also complained in the compliance
report about confusion among OEMs about Microsoft’s Market Development
Agreement (MDA). Under the terms of the MDA, Microsoft provides marketing
funds in the form of discounts on each copy of Windows to OEMs whose print
advertisements and Web sites promote Microsoft’s operating system.


One such arrangement requires OEMs to place a tagline like “[OEM]
recommends Windows XP Professional.” At the DoJ’s request, Microsoft
has clarified the meaning of its tagline policy so that OEMs selling
computers without Windows do not have to run the tagline, and OEMs that offer
both Windows and a competing operating system may use the tagline but are
not required to do so.


The next court compliance hearing is set for Jan. 21, 2005.

News Around the Web