Microsoft to reveal Windows code

Update: Microsoft will reveal hundreds of pieces of proprietary computer code from its monopoly Windows operating system to comply with a DOJ settlement.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor
WASHINGTON--Microsoft will reveal hundreds of pieces of proprietary computer code from its monopoly Windows operating system in the next several weeks to comply with an antitrust settlement it signed with the U.S. Justice Department last year, the company said on Monday.

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The software giant said the disclosures are part of its first steps to comply with the settlement that must still be approved by a federal judge and is still opposed by nine state attorneys general seeking stiffer sanctions.

Microsoft said it plans to disclose 385 bits of computer code and internal operating rules, previously kept secret, that outside software developers can use to write programs to run on Windows.

"With these new (disclosures), software developers will have additional development choices in designing their Windows programs," the company said in a statement.

In its original case against Microsoft, the Justice Department and 18 states had accused the company of deliberately withholding computer code in Windows to hamper competitors.

Microsoft reached a deal with the Justice Department in November. Nine of the 18 states in the lawsuit agreed to sign on to the deal, but nine others are asking U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly for tougher restrictions.

Microsoft said in addition to 272 pieces of code it also would reveal 113 proprietary software "protocols" that computer server makers can license to make their machines work better with Windows desktops.

Customized Windows
In a conference call with reporters, the company said new, uniform terms for the licensing of Windows went into effect Aug 1. The terms would apply to the top 20 computer makers and be offered to other manufacturers as well.

Microsoft also said upcoming updates of the new Windows XP operating system will allow computer makers and consumers to add and remove access to some Windows features such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Windows media player, and Outlook Express.

Microsoft said the steps are based on several principles, including "erring on the side of reasonableness" and "listening to feedback and acting on it."

The provisions were central to Microsoft's settlement with the Justice Department, which the department says is designed to let computer makers customize the machines they sell with more non-Microsoft software.

The Justice Department said it was reviewing the licensing terms for revealing the protocols "to determine whether they are compliant with the terms of the proposed consent decree."

The dissenting states say their remedies would close loopholes in the Justice Department settlement and force Microsoft to sell a cheaper, stripped-down version of Windows, which could be customized by rival software makers.

In their final arguments before Kollar-Kotelly, the states said their most important demand was for Microsoft to disclose far more about the inner workings of Windows to allow rival software to work with the operating system.

The nine states still pursuing the case are California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia.

Microsoft has criticized the non-settling states' proposal as radical and harmful to consumers.

Microsoft said on Monday there was one Windows "programming interface" and one server protocol it would still keep secret for security reasons.

In a landmark ruling on the case in June 2001, a federal appeals court dismissed parts of the government's case, but upheld a lower court's conclusion that Microsoft had used illegal tactics to maintain its Windows monopoly.

Microsoft has told the judge it would be catastrophic if other companies got too much access to the inner workings of the operating system.

It said that would allow them to "clone" Windows, prompting Microsoft to stop investing in research and development on the operating system.

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