Senator Wants Answers in Microsoft Settlement

US Senator Orin Hatch, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) some pointed questions about its proposed settlement with Microsoft, which he feels is insufficient. The goal, he says, is to discover how this settlement possibly "terminates the monopoly Microsoft was found by the appellate court to have unlawfully maintained" and how the settlement denies to Microsoft "the fruits of its \[antitrust\] violations." Hatch sent 8 pages of questions to the DOJ's antitrust chief late last week in preparation for a December 12 hearing that will also focus on the settlement.

Hatch also wants to know whether the settlement applies to Microsoft's latest technologies, Windows XP and Windows .NET, which are barely mentioned in the proposed settlement. "If not," the letter reads, "why has the \[DOJ\] decided not to apply the settlement to these products?" Also, the senator asks, how will this settlement restore competition in the PC industry? He quotes an analysis of the settlement that said it "imposes no obligation on Microsoft to change its business practices or redesign its products" and asks the DOJ to counter that statement with proof that it's incorrect.

Many of Microsoft's competitors and several consumer-protection groups have described the settlement as "ineffectual" and unlikely to curb the company's predatory behavior. And Hatch, I should mention, represents the district that houses Microsoft rival Novell, which has had several damaging run-ins with Microsoft during the past 10 years. Microsoft's proposed settlement isn't a shoo-in; nine US states still oppose the deal, and Judge Kollar-Kotelly has yet to decide whether the settlement is in the public interest. She will make that ruling early next year.

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