Feds Slog Through Windows 7 Documentation

Microsoft's rollout of Windows 7 Beta, the company's newest operating system, has resulted in a stepped-up workload for the Department of Justice effort overseeing Microsoft's compliance with a past federal court antitrust ruling.

For several years, the D.C. U.S. District Court has been overseeing Microsoft's documentation of protocols used for interoperability with Windows. The work followed a 2002 "Final Judgment" against Microsoft, in which the software giant was found to have used Windows to push other products anticompetitively, such as its Internet Explorer browser.

Last month, as a result of Windows 7 development, Microsoft delivered "30 new technical documents and 87 updated technical documents" to a Technical Committee (TC) overseeing Microsoft's documentation compliance efforts.

"In light of the number of new documents that need to be reviewed, the TC is going to shift its focus to direct review of the documents by the TC's engineers as the most efficient method of identifying issues with the documentation," wrote attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division in a court document published last Wednesday.

The new approach represents a shift in strategy for the Antitrust Division in overseeing Microsoft's compliance, although it will continue "validation and prototyping methods to supplement this direct review."

Microsoft plans to complete testing on existing submitted Windows protocol documentation by March 31, 2009. It plans to complete all of its system documents by June 30 of this year, according to the court document.

The court document cited two other complaints against Microsoft without providing details.

"The States and the Technical Committee have received complaints about certain marketing programs announced by Microsoft from several companies that manufacture and sell a variety of products that work with Windows," the document states.

A CNet news story identified those marketing programs as associated with Windows Vista, in which Microsoft wanted independent software vendors and OEMs to run Vista performance tests, paying them when their test results were successful. Microsoft claims it has since changed this program, according to the Department of Justice's document.

The second complaint involved cross-platform gaming and was "resolved to the Plaintiff's satisfaction," according to the document. The plaintiff remains undisclosed in the confidential matter, but Microsoft agreed to provide additional training to its Windows employees that work with hardware vendors. In addition, Microsoft plans to make an announcement in the next two months supporting "game developers on Windows whether or not those developers choose to develop for other platforms as well," the document explained.

Microsoft's documentation effort is being overseen by Robert Muglia, Microsoft's president of the Server and Tools Business, with "nearly 800 Microsoft employees and contingent staff" working on the project, according to the document. The consent decree that ordered court oversight of Microsoft's compliance efforts is set to expire in November of 2009.

Despite Microsoft's efforts over six years to resolve the original U.S. complaints about anticompetitive browser bundling with Windows, as well as Windows interoperability issues, the company still faces scrutiny from the European Union over the very same issues. Earlier this month, the European Commission indicated issued a "Statement of Objections" that could mean Microsoft will face similar legal actions all over again.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.