Microsoft Slapped with Oversight Extension

Several years of failing to comply fully with its antitrust settlement in the United States have finally caught up with Microsoft: On Wednesday morning, US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the court would continue its oversight of the software giant an additional two years, through November 12, 2009.

Federal oversight of Microsoft was due to expire in November 2007, five years after a 2002 settlement between the company and the US government. Several US states involved in the case asked the judge to extend oversight an additional five years because of what they described as continuing antitrust abuses by Microsoft. However, other states and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) argued against this extension, saying that the settlement had run its course. Kollar-Kotelly temporarily extended Microsoft's oversight in November so that she could review the claims.

While Kollar-Kotelly would clear prefer to end federal oversight of Microsoft, the judge noted in her ruling that the company's ongoing inability to meet the requirements of its settlement have forced her hand. Microsoft was required to provide technical documentation to its rivals that would provide them with server interoperability information. Five years and multiple attempts later, the company has yet to deliver an acceptable set of documentation, she said. However, this ruling shouldn't be seen as a sanction, she added: Microsoft has been "overwhelmingly cooperative."

That's an interesting way to put it. Microsoft's documentation was originally due in February 2003, five long years ago, and from what I can see, the company has done everything it can, both here and in international antitrust cases, to drag out its compliance as long as possible. Only in recent years, most notably with the development of Windows Vista, has Microsoft made any clear efforts to conform to the needs to antitrust regulations around the globe.

In any event, the Kollar-Kotelly ruling effectively splits the difference between those who were looking for continued oversight and those who were not. Instead of the five years the "California Group" of US states was requesting, Kotell-Kotelly has imposed a two year extension. Perhaps after seven years of delays, Microsoft will finally submit that long-overdue documentation and put this case behind them for good.

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