US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly finally owned up to the obvious yesterday, noting that the weak-kneed settlement she agreed to between Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) was unlikely to curb the software giant's market dominance. Kotelly, who is overseeing Microsoft's settlement, commented on the negligible effects on Microsoft's businesses during a court review of the company's compliance, which, incidentally, she found to be excellent.
Kollar-Kotelly asked lawyers for the DOJ "what, if any, effect" the settlement has had on Microsoft and its dominance of the PC market. She was told that there was "no demonstrable change" in that dominance, and that the DOJ had "no good answer" for that question. However, a Microsoft lawyer noted that the terms of the settlement have created a more level playing field for competitors and that Internet Explorer (IE) rival Mozilla Firefox was introduced in that environment.
Kollar-Kotelly seemed to like that bit of evidence, but agreed that it would probably be a long time before Microsoft ceded any real market share to rivals. "How the marketplace responds to that is not under the control of this court." she said Wednesday. "I have a feeling it's going to be a long-term process in terms of knowing what happens in the marketplace." Much of the meeting yesterday dealt with issues regarding Microsoft's distribution of technical documentation to competitors. The DOJ expressed its hope that someone would use that documentation to create products that compete with Microsoft's dominant software products.
Critics, predictably, have opined that the settlement was an absolute failure. They point to the competitive landscape of the PC software market, which has not changed at all since the settlement was first announced, as proof. But Microsoft argues that the goal of the settlement was not to curb Microsoft's market share but rather to remove competitive barriers.