Microsoft Asks for Time to Consider States' Clarifications

In light of the recent clarifications to the nine nonsettling states' and District of Columbia's remedy proposal, Microsoft has asked a federal judge for a 2-week delay so that the company can more closely examine the new plan. Critics of the company say that Microsoft is simply trying to push remedy hearings back far enough so that Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will have time to rule on the separate Department of Justice (DOJ) and Microsoft proposed settlement (her approval of that deal would render the states' remedies superfluous). But Microsoft says that the clarifications came without warning, less than a week before the remedy hearings are set to begin. Kollar-Kotelly hasn't revealed when she plans to issue a decision on Microsoft's delay request.

The states had originally requested that Microsoft provide consumers with a stripped-down Windows version in addition to the standard version. This stripped-down version would lack most of the Microsoft add-on applications and middleware, including Internet Explorer (IE), Windows Media Player (WMP), and Windows Movie Maker (WMM), and would cost substantially less than the standard version, giving customers a wider range of choices and price points. Microsoft argued that requiring the company to make multiple Windows versions would be difficult, a point Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tried to reinforce in a deposition released earlier this week. During questioning, Ballmer railed against the "hundreds or thousands" of Windows versions the company would be forced to make and the confusion such an action would cause.

Regardless of the conceptual differences between Ballmer's "hundreds of thousands" of Windows versions and the stripped-down Windows version the states requested, the states have since clarified their request. The clarification says that Microsoft would need to create only one Windows version that would let customers, PC makers, and IT administrators remove unnecessary or unwanted Windows components, including the aforementioned IE, WMP, and WMM. Indeed, this request is logical and clearly what customers want; why the company doesn't voluntarily adopt this tactic is unclear. Certainly, this action would have a profoundly positive effect on both the nonsettling states and the company's customers.

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