March 7, 2007 10:49 AM PST

Feds: Microsoft not meeting deadlines in antitrust settlement

Federal antitrust officials have expressed growing concern that Microsoft is falling behind on deadlines to revise technical documentation to licensees, according to a joint status report released Wednesday.

As part of the 2002 consent decree that came out of an antitrust settlement, Microsoft is required to disclose server protocols to rivals as a means to allow interoperability between the parties' products. The software giant and Department of Justice submit joint status reports to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and hold frequent status hearings, one of which is scheduled for Tuesday.

"Plaintiffs are concerned that Microsoft has not been able to meet its original schedule and are particularly troubled that at this late hour in the program Microsoft is still discovering protocols that should have been included in the original documentation," the Justice Department states in the report.

The Justice Department noted that while the quality of Microsoft's technical documentation appears to have improved in meeting its second milestone in December, it has yet to do additional testing before making a final assessment. Microsoft also submitted documentation for its third milestone on February 21, which has yet to be reviewed by the Justice Department.

But the software giant wants to modify the schedule, adding another milestone and roughly two months to the rewrite project.

Microsoft discovered there are a number of other protocols that need to be added to the project beyond those originally planned in fall 2006, because they were either added to Longhorn Server after the initial schedule was developed--or because they were inadvertently overlooked in the initial preparation for the schedule, the Justice Department stated.

Microsoft is proposing to add a Longhorn milestone with an expected delivery of 30 documents to licensees by April 3, according to the software giant's schedule in the report.

Milestone 4, with its expected 35 documents, would go to licensees on May 11, a month later than its previous timeline. And milestone 5, with its anticipated 38 documents, would go to licensees by July 20, rather than May 29.

Microsoft attributes the delays to a dramatic increase in the volume of documents it expects to provide.

"The increase in the volume of the documentation is due to two primary factors. (One), the need to document new protocols that Microsoft identified as part of an internal audit. And, (two), a conclusion by Microsoft that overall quality of the documentation could be improved by providing more comprehensive and detailed descriptions for a certain number of existing protocols," Microsoft said in the report.

The software giant and the Justice Department are likely to discuss the scheduling issue during their status hearing next week, but whether it receives a friendly audience with the court is not clear.

Last year, a federal judge characterized Microsoft's delivery of the documentation as "foot dragging," during a quarterly status conference to assess whether the company was in compliance with the consent decree.

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9 comments

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What, Microsft dragging it's feet?
Never
Posted by befuddledms (113 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The reason why MS drags it's feet
MS drags it's feet because the courts haven't penalized MS enough to make them adhere to US laws and decrees. In other words it is worth MS time to delay because they will gain more than they will lose.

Look at the EU's stance. They don't take any crap and MS is being whipped into line. The EU has made breaking their laws unprofitable. Profits are the only thing MS cares about, so that is where you have to hit them if you want compliance.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes and No.
Yes the EU is fining Microsoft a ton of money.
And no, its not whipping them in to line.

I dont believe that Microsoft has yet to pay the fine. They are using any and every legal manuver to drag things out.

And yes, you are correct. They do this because the fines are cheaper than losing the revenue from lost sales.

Interestingly enough, consumers are/were hurt by settlements that included discounts on future purchases of Microsoft products. Rather than opening the marketplace for competition, it is actually closing the marketplace. Why by a competing product when you can purchase a microsoft product at a steep discount and then get locked in for a series of future upgrades?

Unless Microsoft is forced to pay back hard capital, you'll never see them back down to anyone.
Posted by dargon19888 (412 comments )
Link Flag
Why..??
They are VERY reluctant to reveal the code of the stolen procedures. Can you imagine the loss of face when it is made public that they use LINUX and Other stolen code.
Posted by Northwolf (5 comments )
Link Flag
And what?
We are supposed to be surprised that a toothless anti-trust outcome is not being complied with?

What exactly are the consequences for Microsoft for failing to meet DOJ deadlines? Apparently nothing, unless you consider the DOJ being concerned to be some sort of penalty.

If I don't pay my court ordered fines or perform community service or other sanctioned penalties the very least I face is additional financial penalties; but I would be more likely to face prison time for contempt of court.

The outcome was pretty much pathetic considering the laws they were supposed to have violated. And probably because of this M$ consider the DOJ to be so contempt worthy that they can dictate when and what parts of the settlement they abide by.

After all, there doesn't appear to be any sort of penalty for first submitting sub standard compliance, and then deciding they can set their own agenda for compliance - thereby ignoring the settlement until they feel like abiding by it.

Surely these are grounds for ripping this settlement up and actually dealing out some real punishment for their transgressions.

I hope for the sake of their reputation the DOJ actually do something worthwhile now. Because if they don't corporate America will surely view this as precedent for legally ignoring any settlement they come to in future anti-trust cases.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Disclosures worthless to the real competition
Really who cares about this issue?

The only real competition that could benefit from the disclosure of all the server protocols is GPL based developments. Microsoft has made the terms of releasing this documentation so that it can never be used in any GPL project and for some reason this is okay with the DOJ.

When the most significant competition to Microsoft is excluded from the benefits of the settlement with the DOJ, what competition has been restored?

Let's face it, real efforts from the DOJ or the EU to stop Microsoft from abusing its monopoly position just aren't going to happen. Apparently big business is just to important to government agencies these days.
Posted by lschweiss (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Worthless terms
Really who cares about this issue?

The only real competition that could benefit from the disclosure of all the server protocols is GPL based developments. Microsoft has made the terms of releasing this documentation so that it can never be used in any GPL project and for some reason this is okay with the DOJ.

When the most significant competition to Microsoft is excluded from the benefits of the settlement with the DOJ, what competition has been restored?

Let's face it, real efforts from the DOJ or the EU to stop Microsoft from abusing its monopoly position just aren't going to happen. Apparently big business is just to important to government agencies these days.
Posted by lschweiss (9 comments )
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