Microsoft antitrust settlement opens interfaces

Microsoft antitrust settlement opens interfaces

The Justice Department today said its antitrust settlement with Microsoft Corp. 'imposes a broad range of restrictions that will stop Microsoft's unlawful conduct, prevent recurrence of similar conduct in the future and restore competition in the software market.'

In a press conference, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates called the settlement 'a fair compromise on all sides' that would let the company keep innovating. The deal, which will last for five years with a possible two-year extension, requires Microsoft to provide other software developers with the interfaces through which the company's browsers, e-mail clients, media players, instant messaging software and similar desktop tools work with Microsoft operating systems.

The pact 'ensures that non-Microsoft server software can interoperate with Windows on a PC the same way that Microsoft servers do,' the Justice statement said. Manufacturers and PC users can substitute competing middleware on Microsoft OS platforms. The settlement bars Microsoft from retaliating against hardware or software makers that support or develop certain competing products.

The parties filed the proposed final judgment today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly now has jurisdiction over the case. The court will appoint a three-person technical committee to oversee the company's compliance.

The antitrust case, initiated in 1998, has seen multiple ups and downs for both sides. Last year, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled against Microsoft and ordered its breakup. Jackson was later removed from the case, and an appeals court turned down parts of his judgment.

Gates said the deal had been worked out over the past several weeks as Kollar-Kotelly pressed for action by today. Gates said he hopes the attorneys general of 17 states and the District of Columbia that are also plaintiffs will accept the settlement by the judge's Nov. 6 deadline.

Microsoft has posted the text of the proposed final judgment at www.microsoft.com/presspass/trial/nov01/11-02settlement.asp. Links to previous documents in the antitrust case appear at www.dcd.uscourts.gov/microsoft-2001.html.

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