Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that they have agreed to "significant refinements" in their proposed settlement of the government's antitrust suit against the company. These changes are a response to public criticism of the deal, which many people thought was far too lenient on Microsoft. "\[The revised settlement proposal offers\] a comprehensive remedy that puts into place meaningful, effective and enforceable restrictions on Microsoft," the two entities said in a court filing issued late yesterday. Microsoft and the DOJ made the following changes to the proposed settlement:
- The original settlement's provision that caused Microsoft to issue new Windows licenses to PC makers has been deleted entirely. This clause triggered controversy when several PC makers complained that language in Microsoft's new license contracts could have let the company steal their intellectual property.
- Several technical definitions have been broadened to guarantee that Microsoft must ensure that rival software components can work as well with Windows as Microsoft components can.
- Previously vague wording has been cleaned up so that the meaning of Windows "server" software is clearer. This clause requires Microsoft to disclose technical information to rivals so that they can write software that interoperates with Windows servers.
In the filing, Microsoft added another constitutional complaint that accused Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of acting "almost ministerial" by presiding over the proposed settlement's approval. In other words, Microsoft said the judge will exceed her judicial charter if she takes responsibility for a matter that's constitutionally required to occur within the US government's executive branch. The DOJ simply asked the judge to approve the settlement and didn't raise any constitutional questions. "\[Failure to approve the settlement\] would mean that Microsoft's anticompetitive practices likely would continue unabated for several more years, an eternity in this ever-changing market," the filing says.