Federal antitrust authorities are prodding Microsoft Corp. to disclose more to rivals who license key Windows computer code under requirements of a landmark antitrust settlement, according to court papers filed Wednesday.
Microsoft has agreed to work with the Justice Department and state attorneys general to address concerns that potential competitors are not getting enough documentation when they pay for access to details about how to make non-Microsoft server software work well with the operating system, the two sides said in a report filed in federal court.
Antitrust enforcers view the protocol licensing plan as key to the 2001 antitrust settlement, hoping it will enable other software companies to compete on a more equal footing. Authorities "have concluded that the technical documentation needs substantial revision in order to ensure that it is usable by licensees," the report says.
The conclusion was disclosed in a status report both sides filed with the judge presiding over the settlement, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
The two sides also said three additional companies had agreed to license the server protocols since January, including Sun Microsystems Inc.
Sun's decision was announced April 2 as part of a broad settlement reached between the longtime rivals. Mary Snapp, a Microsoft lawyer, called it a "significant milestone" that will "foster increased competition in the industry."
The two other new licensees are Time Warner Inc.'s AOL subsidiary and GeoTrust Inc., a provider of digital certificate services, the report says.
The three additions bring the total number of server protocol licensees to 14, but most are for development of niche products that don't threaten Microsoft's dominance.
An appeals court is considering a challenge to the antitrust settlement by Massachusetts and two computer industry groups. Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Thomas Reilly said in a report to Kollar-Kotelly on Wednesday that the settlement's impact on competition was "essentially nonexistent."