With Settlement Accepted, Microsoft Moves to Comply

Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed separately Friday to adopt minor changes to their proposed settlement in the Microsoft antitrust case, which were imposed by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly a week earlier. The agreements set the stage for judicial ratification of the settlement, which now gives Kollar-Kotelly additional oversight of Microsoft's compliance for at least five years. But that's the only notable change to the proposed settlement, which was largely green-lighted by the judge in her November 1 ruling.

Additionally, a spokesperson for New York's attorney general office, which coordinated efforts between the states involved in the suit, said that the states "have no problem" with the judge's requested changes. Had any of the parties involved in the settlement not accepted the minor changes, the judge would have been forced to throw out the agreement, renewing settlement talks and, potentially, more hearings.

There was precious little chance of that happening. Microsoft, the DOJ, and the settling states are all very much interested in putting this case behind them. Microsoft, in particular, has moved quickly to ensure that it complies with the ruling. On Monday, the company announced the formation of a three-person committee that will oversee Microsoft's settlement compliance internally, a requirement of the ruling. All of the committee members are Microsoft board members, as requested by the judge, another small change she made to the proposed settlement. They include James I. Cash, a Harvard Business School professor; former Labor secretary Ann McLaughlin Korologos; and Raymond V. Gilmartin, the president and CEO of drug maker Merck & Company. Microsoft will also create a separate, three-person technical antitrust oversight committee in the coming days.

In a letter to employees last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote that the settlement "required \[the company\] to make substantial changes to our business. We believe it is fair and allows Microsoft to continue doing the kind of innovative work that has advanced the development of the PC industry over the past 25 years." Ballmer stressed that all Microsoft employees had to accept the "new responsibilities" required by the settlement, including uniform Windows licensing terms for PC makers, an increase in the amount of technical information the company would supply about its products, and an acceptance of the fact that PC makers can promote competing products in Windows. "It is important that we learn the lessons of the last four years," Ballmer wrote. "We must be aware of how our actions affect others and are perceived by them. Compliance is both a corporate commitment and a personal responsibility for all employees."

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