State AGs Want Continued Oversight of Microsoft

In a filing with US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the attorneys general for six states-- California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts and Minnesota--and the District of Columbia have requested that antitrust oversight of Microsoft continue through 2012. Oversight of the software giant's business practices, which was scheduled to expire in November, came about as a result of Microsoft's 2002 US antitrust settlement.

The groups of AGs, which is known collectively as the California Group, says that five years of oversight hasn't done enough to curb Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior. Five other states-- Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as the US Department of Justice (DOJ), all of whom were allied together with the California Group states in pursuing Microsoft--believe, however, that the settlement has had the desired effect. Microsoft, they say, faces a more competitive marketplace today as a result.

The California Group, of course, disagrees. They are seeking another five years of oversight to prevent Microsoft from "using its enduring monopoly power to hamper nascent platform threats" and to deny it "the fruits of its statutory violation."

With all due respect to the California Group, Microsoft has worked to ensure that its latest operating system, Windows Vista, not only complies with the conditions of the 2002 settlement, but also with emerging concerns from competitors. One might argue, in fact, that Vista has been compromised by the many changes Microsoft has made due to these complaints. Microsoft says that it too believes the settlement has run its course. "The consent decree has served its purpose, ending practices the courts found were anticompetitive, and providing additional legal remedies as well," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Kollar-Kotelly will hold a single hearing in November to resolve the matter. Previous comments from the judge suggest that she is not interested in extending oversight of the company, but she has promised to evaluate arguments from both sides of the debate.

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