Nonsettling States Clarify Remedies

To address Microsoft criticisms, the nine nonsettling states and the District of Columbia have clarified their proposed remedies a week before the two groups will meet in court before a federal judge, who will decide whether to adopt the remedies as part of her decision against the company. Microsoft's primary complaint was that the states would require the company to create numerous stripped-down Windows versions, but the states claim this wasn't their intent at all. They now are specifically asking that Microsoft supply one modular Windows version in which consumers, PC makers, and businesses can decide which components to install. If the judge adopts this remedy and it becomes law, Windows customers might finally get the chance to uninstall Windows components that they can't currently uninstall. "The main purpose \[of these clarifications\]," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, "is to deflate Microsoft's overblown rhetoric and apocalyptic predictions about our proposed remedies."

In their February depositions, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Group Vice President James Allchin derided the states' request for modular Windows versions. "I don't think there's any PC maker interest that I understand \[in a modular Windows\], and I don't think there's any interest from consumers," Ballmer said, contradicting the hundreds of feedback email messages about this topic that I've received during the past few years. Indeed, I think this choice is all that users are asking for with regards to Windows. Allchin said that such a modular Windows is technically impossible. "It's unimplementable," he said. "That's my technical judgment. I haven't done any studies on it." But in fact, Microsoft has released a component-based Windows XP version called Windows XP Embedded, in which developers can easily swap out software components.

Microsoft's reaction to the clarifications was combative. "The reason the nonsettling states have proposed relief that is significantly broader than the \[proposed settlement\] ... is no secret," Microsoft attorneys wrote in a filing issued last night. "They seek to advance the commercial interests of Microsoft's competitors." The states, however, say that the proposed remedies will simply offer consumers more choices.

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