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Feds fume over Microsoft anti-trust delay

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The US Department of Justice told a federal judge it is unhappy with Microsoft's plans to extend a deadline for supplying technical information to licensees documenting how Windows communicates with operating systems and middleware made by other companies.

Microsoft is required to supply the documentation under a 2001 consent decree that settled a long-standing antitrust lawsuit brought by the US government. Justice Department attorneys deemed initial documentation Microsoft supplied as inadequate, and Microsoft agreed to offer regular revisions. The disclosures are designed to put competing software makers on an equal footing by supplying the information they need to make their products interoperate with Microsoft's monopoly operating systems.

The software behemoth has met three deadlines so far, but said it needed more time to complete the remaining ones. The delay, it said, was needed to account for last-minute protocols added to its upcoming Longhorn Server operating system and those overlooked on previous reviews. The Justice Department isn't amused by the change, which will add an extra report Microsoft must submit and extend the compliance schedule by just under two months.

"Plaintiffs are concerned that Microsoft has not been able to meet its original schedule and are particularly troubled that at this late hour in the program Microsoft is still discovering protocols that should have been included in the original documentation," Justice Department attorneys wrote in a status report jointly prepared by them and Microsoft. They said they are discussing the matter with the company and would report more at an upcoming status conference.

In a section prepared by Microsoft, company lawyers said they have resolved a "substantial majority" of the issues previously raised by the government. They said the delays were the result of changes the company didn't anticipate when it agreed to the schedule in September and that the additions would likely require thousands of additional pages of documentation it is required to file.

The change would bring the total number of revisions, which in court parlance are called a milestones, to six. The new milestone is due on April 3. The last one is to be delivered on July 20.

The Justice Departments concerns aren't the first time Microsoft has been accused of stalling. In January, 2006 US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who is overseeing the settlement, described Microsoft's compliance efforts "foot-dragging."

The Justice Department also said it was investigating a complaint Microsoft has received from an unnamed source concerning middleware. The department is also analyzing evidence presented in a separate legal action in Iowa, which was tentatively settled last month. The evidence relates to allegations Microsoft has failed to disclose APIs as required. ®

Today's status report is here.

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