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Anti-trust committee checks out Windows 7

As Microsoft wants 'Vista Capable' row put on ice

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The US court-mandated technical committee (TC) responsible for pulling Microsoft into line over a 2002 federal anti-trust settlement is reviewing Windows 7.

It said in a joint status report filed in a federal court in the District of Columbia last week that it had received a build of Microsoft’s next big operating system and is currently checking it out to see if it violates the anti-trust settlement.

A landmark US anti-trust case against Microsoft was settled under the consent decree in 2002 after it was found to have guarded its monopoly over its Windows operating system.

The committee said it was now examining Windows 7 (code-named Blackcomb then Vienna) to see if the company has complied with the original settlement, which required that Microsoft make its products interoperable with those created by its competitors.

“The TC will conduct middleware-related tests on future builds of Windows 7,” it said.

Presumably the compliance group is keen to get its hands on code of the software giant’s next OS prior to the expected 2009 expiry of the federal government’s oversight.

Microsoft has chalked 2010 as the year customers can expect Windows 7 to be released. But rumours have recently surfaced that suggest the firm, in the face of fierce criticism of the much-unloved Vista, could be planning to parachute the OS in as early as the second half of next year.

The report also revealed that tweaks that comply with the anti-trust settlement have been squeezed into Vista service pack one (SP1), which may explain some of the reasons behind Microsoft’s decision to push back its release several times.

"The TC and Microsoft are both working to help ensure that middleware and ISVs achieve ‘Vista-readiness’ by taking full advantage of the default-related features in Vista,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has asked for a lawsuit that claims customers had been deceived by a Windows Vista marketing campaign be suspended, while the company appeals a judge's decision to greenlight the case.

The "Vista Capable" labels row blew up in Microsoft's face last month. US judge Marsha Pechman gave consumers the go-ahead to file a class action lawsuit against Microsoft for providing misleading information about Windows XP computers being able to run Vista.

The lawsuit is specifically looking at whether Microsoft’s labels generated artificial demand for computers in the run-up to Christmas 2006.

It will also examine if prices had been overstated for computers that couldn’t be upgraded to the full-featured Premium version of Vista, which includes the Aero user interface.

Microsoft has sent its petition to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in which it has argued about two specific points of the case. First of these is Pechman's decision to bring the class-action lawsuit under Washington state law because that's where the firm is headquartered; secondly, it questions the judge's "price inflation" theory.

The firm said it hopes to have a ruling on its appeal within 90 days. ®

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