Microsoft has responded to concerns about the weak impact of its landmark antitrust settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and several US states. The company has offered to extend the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP)--the settlement agreement's technology-licensing provision--an additional 2 years. The settlement was set to expire in November 2007 but will now expire in November 2009, assuming the DOJ accepts the deal.
Microsoft made its offer at a status conference yesterday with US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. The judge, who approved the original settlement in November 2002, expressed her disappointment to DOJ and Microsoft lawyers, noting that she had hoped for faster results. Whether the settlement has fostered any new competition is unclear, she said, but she also noted that she's satisfied with Microsoft's compliance so far.
The technology-licensing agreement was designed to make it easier for Microsoft's competitors to gain access to the information they need to easily develop products that communicate seamlessly with Windows. In an effort to make MCPP easier for companies to adopt, Microsoft has modified the program numerous times since first implementing it. But only 14 companies--including EMC, GeoTrust, Network Appliance, STARBAK Communications, Sun Microsystems, Time Warner, and VeriSign--have signed up so far.
Microsoft also pledged to include in MCPP technologies from the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. Presumably, the company believed that explicitly mentioning Longhorn would answer some of the more obvious questions about its much-maligned settlement, which some critics have described as "ineffectual" and "toothless."