Six weeks after Microsoft
trumpeted meeting the last of
the milestones laid out in its antitrust
settlement with the federal government, a group of the company’s critics
complained Microsoft is not living up to the terms of the deal.
In a letter sent to both the Justice Department and New York State Attorney
General Elliot Spitzer, The Project to Promote Competition and Innovation in
the Digital Age (ProComp), a lobbying group with ties to Microsoft
competitors, said the moves the software giant has made so far have been
inadequate and incomplete.
ProComp urged the Justice Department to challenge Microsoft’s filing in late
August that it was in full compliance with the settlement provisions. The
group highlighted six areas in which it feels Microsoft is in violation of
one section of the agreement, but turned its focus on Microsoft’s recently
released Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows.
“Upon close examination of Service Pack 1 for Windows XP (and Service Pack 3
for Windows 2000), it cannot be argued that Microsoft made even a good faith
effort to comply with the letter, not to mention the spirit, of [the
settlement],” ProComp stated.
Microsoft officials dismissed the letter as posturing.
“Reaching out to independent groups and the government in this process is
very important to us,” Microsoft spokesman Jim Dessler said. “We had a
three-month long beta process, and ProComp chose not to provide us with any
feedback during that process but has fabricated some charges in an attempt
ProComp has been a vociferous critic of Microsoft’s business practices,
saying the proposed federal antitrust settlement struck in November 2001 was
filled with loopholes and flaws.
Lars Liebeler, legal counsel for CompTIA, a group that has been supportive
of the antitrust settlement, dismissed ProComp’s letter as a strategic move
to paint Microsoft in a bad light.
“I don’t think there are any significant legal issues that are raised,” he
said. “It doesn’t address the question before the court, which is whether
the settlement is the right one.”
The service pack was to address some of the anti-competitive charges made
against the Redmond, Wash. software giant by giving manufacturers more
choices between Microsoft and non-Microsoft products and allowing them more
options to use third-party software.
The release of SP1, announced in
late May and released in
beta in June, followed up on Microsoft’s disclosure
last month of 272 application protocol interfaces.
Both moves, in addition to a program for
licensing 113 Windows communication protocols begun earlier this summer,
were required in Microsoft’s antitrust settlement last fall with the Justice
Department and most of the states suing the company. The settlement is
pending, while U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly decides an
antitrust case pursued by nine states that rejected the settlement as too
lenient. Her ruling is expected sometime this fall.
ProComp said SP1’s “Set Program Access and Default” utility, which allows
users the option of disabling Microsoft products, does not address the core
problem of third-party middleware being unable to interoperate with
Microsoft’s Windows operating system. The group criticized Microsoft’s
distribution of the update, saying SP1 for Windows XP was “not readily
accessible to consumers.”
ProComp accuses Microsoft of making the 30-megabyte update unnecessarily
cumbersome, as it requires users well over an hour to download.
“Microsoft has unnecessarily architected and bundled Windows XP Service Pack
1 in such a way as to virtually guarantee that it will not be utilized by
consumers in the first place,” the group said.
Dessler pointed out the service pack contains a number of critical security
patches, necessitating the hefty download, in addition to a smaller version
that includes just critical updates. He said SP1 was downloaded over 3
million times in its first week.
ProComp’s other criticisms revolve around the non-intuitive nature of the
utility for disabling Microsoft middleware, with no help section for users
However, Liebeler pointed out that ProComp’s technical complaints could not
be addressed until Kollar-Kotelly rules. If she accepts the settlement, a
three-person technical committee will address the remedy’s mechanisms.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter what CompTIA or ProComp says,” Liebeler said.
“What matters is what the judge is going to do.”