'

States ask court to extend oversight of Microsoft

Parts of a consent agreement by which a federal court provided oversight of Microsoft's market behavior are due to expire Nov. 12.

Parts of a consent agreement by which a federal court provided oversight of Microsoft's market behavior are due to expire Nov. 12. And although federal regulators and attorneys general from several states now say the judgment should be allowed to expire, six states and D.C. are asking the court to extend the decree until 2012, Computerworld reports.

California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia filed a formal request to extend the judgment, saying that Redmond's anticompetitive behavior will impact the emerging world of web-based and hybrid applications. Because Microsoft Internet Explorer continues to dominate browser market share, Redmond could stymie technologies such as Google Gears and Adobe AIR, which allow for hybrid online/desktop programs, the so-called California group said.

"Because Web-centric technologies are so dependent on Web browsers and servers for access to consumers, they are particularly susceptible to impediments that Microsoft could interpose were the final judgment to expire now," the filing said.

"Microsoft has the ability -- by virtue of IE's dominance and its resulting control of Web standards -- to use the browser as a chokepoint with respect to consumer access to the Internet-centric technologies that currently represent the most promising nascent platform threats to Windows," the states claimed.

"Many of the 'new' or 'emerging' technologies cited by Microsoft's experts are dependent on a 'standards-based' browser to access computing functionality delivered by servers. For the vast majority of PCs, that browser is IE," the states said.

Redmond had a different opinion, as did regulators from the U.S., New York, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

"We believe, and the Department of Justice has stated, the consent decree has served its purpose, ending practices the courts found were anticompetitive, and providing additional legal remedies as well," Jack Evans, a spokesperson for Microsoft, told Computerworld.

Microsoft said the decree was never meant to accomplish specific goals in changing market share, just to stop anticompetitive practices. The judge is expected to rule on the extension request on November 6, when a status hearing on the case is scheduled.