January 16, 2004 5:09 PM PST

Justice Dept.: Microsoft's 'fallen short'

The U.S. Justice Department on Friday expressed concern that Microsoft has not completely lived up to its agreement to disclose Windows communications protocols, as required by a 2002 antitrust agreement.

In an 18-page filing with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the government said the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program has "fallen short" of fully satisfying the settlement and that "additional work still needs to be done."

In that settlement, designed to end seven years of antitrust litigation, Microsoft agreed to disclose each communication protocol used in Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP and to make them available for licensing for a fee. Depending on the application, the fees range from $8 to $950 for each copy sold by the third-party developer, less any volume discounts.

The Justice Department has "determined that further improvements need to be made to the licensing program," including simplifying the contracts and developing more straightforward ways to calculate licensing fees, the Friday filing said. The government did acknowledge that "Microsoft has agreed to make additional modifications" to the program to respond to those concerns.

Microsoft said in its own statement, filed jointly with the government's, that it "has made full compliance with its obligations under the final judgments a top priority of the company, and the company continues to devote substantial resources to its compliance work."

Soon, it will release a "much shorter" license agreement and make approximately two dozen protocols available, with a simpler cost structure, Microsoft said.

In 2002, Microsoft entered a consent decree with the Bush administration, which Kollar-Kotelly approved, to settle the long-running antitrust case. It also established a schedule for ongoing antitrust oversight of the company's actions. The next hearing, before Kollar-Kotelly, is scheduled for next week.

Also on Friday, the state of Massachusetts claimed that Microsoft may be unlawfully wielding its desktop dominance to put the squeeze on search engines and on document formats like Adobe Acrobat. Massachusetts is the only government entity still pursuing Microsoft through the U.S. courts, and its attempt to overturn the consent decree is currently before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

 

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