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Microsoft scoffs at antitrust extension seekers

With a little kick to Netscape's corpse

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Microsoft is pshawing claims that it needs another five years of legal babysitting.

A legal coalition including 10 US states and the District of Columbia is asking Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to extend US government oversight of Microsoft imposed under a 2001 antitrust judgment against the software giant.

In a court memorandum (PDF warning) filed last Friday, Microsoft claims the group is relying on "hypothetical scenarios" and "unsubstantiated facts" to argue for extending the antitrust oversight.

Sanctions that were set to expire in November have already been extended until the end of this month in order to give the states time to provide evidence that Microsoft has not complied with the judgment. A particular provision relating to server communication protocols has been extended to the end of 2009. The states argue that all parts of the enforcement are interrelated — and that since one piece was extended, the rest should be as well.

In the memorandum, Microsoft rebuts that the protocol complaints relate only to server-related software and not Windows for desktops.

Microsoft says the groups haven't provided an existing or potential protocol licensee that intends to use the license to create software for the desktop that would rely on protections given by the judgment.

"In the real world, these competitors have achieved success by relying on non-Microsoft protocols (for good business reasons) and have never seriously considered — much less licensed — Microsoft's Communications Protocols."

Microsoft also makes the interesting choice of pinning the recently deceased Netscape web browser as proof the provisions worked their magic and are no longer necessary.

"Those remedial provisions were designed to provide opportunities for the development and distribution of platform software running on the Personal Computer desktop, such as Netscape's Navigator and Sun's Java Virtual Machine. Those provisions have fulfilled their objectives and are now scheduled to expire," Microsoft said in the memorandum.

Netscape used to control over 80 per cent of the web browser market in the mid-1990s, but lost nearly all its customers when Microsoft came knocking. In recent years, Netscape's share of users has danced just above the 0 per cent mark. Readers who dabble in economics will recognize this isn't a great sign of success.

Many (that is, everyone who isn't Microsoft) blame Microsoft for exploiting its relationship with PC vendors to bundle Internet Explorer over the competition. Microsoft paid Netscape $750m in 2003 to settle antitrust charges.

Netscape's current owner, AOL, announced last Friday that it will abandon all work on Netscape in favor of providing more ad-supported software for the helmet-wearing droolers who still use AOL.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice said in Early November it won't support the pursuit of the five year extension of watchdogging Microsoft. ®

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