Feds: Microsoft not meeting deadlines in antitrust settlement

Justice Department says company is behind schedule in efforts to comply with consent decree requiring it disclose server protocols to rivals.
Written by Dawn Kawamoto, Contributor
Federal antitrust officials have expressed growing concern that Microsoft is falling behind on deadlines to revise technical documentation to licensees, according to a joint status report released Wednesday.

As part of the 2002 consent decree that came out of an antitrust settlement, Microsoft is required to disclose server protocols to rivals as a means to allow interoperability between the parties' products. The software giant and Department of Justice submit joint status reports to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and hold frequent status hearings, one of which is scheduled for Tuesday.

"Plaintiffs are concerned that Microsoft has not been able to meet its original schedule and are particularly troubled that at this late hour in the program Microsoft is still discovering protocols that should have been included in the original documentation," the Justice Department states in the report.

The Justice Department noted that while the quality of Microsoft's technical documentation appears to have improved in meeting its second milestone in December, it has yet to do additional testing before making a final assessment. Microsoft also submitted documentation for its third milestone on February 21, which has yet to be reviewed by the Justice Department.

But the software giant wants to modify the schedule, adding another milestone and roughly two months to the rewrite project.

Microsoft discovered there are a number of other protocols that need to be added to the project beyond those originally planned in fall 2006, because they were either added to Longhorn Server after the initial schedule was developed--or because they were inadvertently overlooked in the initial preparation for the schedule, the Justice Department stated.

Microsoft is proposing to add a Longhorn milestone with an expected delivery of 30 documents to licensees by April 3, according to the software giant's schedule in the report.

Milestone 4, with its expected 35 documents, would go to licensees on May 11, a month later than its previous timeline. And milestone 5, with its anticipated 38 documents, would go to licensees by July 20, rather than May 29.

Microsoft attributes the delays to a dramatic increase in the volume of documents it expects to provide.

"The increase in the volume of the documentation is due to two primary factors. (One), the need to document new protocols that Microsoft identified as part of an internal audit. And, (two), a conclusion by Microsoft that overall quality of the documentation could be improved by providing more comprehensive and detailed descriptions for a certain number of existing protocols," Microsoft said in the report.

The software giant and the Justice Department are likely to discuss the scheduling issue during their status hearing next week, but whether it receives a friendly audience with the court is not clear.

Last year, a federal judge characterized Microsoft's delivery of the documentation as "foot dragging," during a quarterly status conference to assess whether the company was in compliance with the consent decree.

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