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US states may seek Microsoft anti-trust extension

It's Windows Vista wot dunnit

globalisation

Some US states may ask for continued supervision of Microsoft, to ensure the software giant isn't breaching the government's 2001 anti-trust agreement.

Microsoft oversight is due to expire on November 12, but states that signed on to the Department of Justice's (DoJ's) deal with Microsoft may now seek an extension that would last until 2012, according to a report.

States, lead by California and New York, cited complaints from unnamed hardware and software companies over Windows Vista promotional complaints.

Microsoft reportedly said that since the January court hearing it had ended the Windows Vista promotions that had cause the complaints.

The states would need to ask presiding district judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to extend The Microsoft oversight. The states are reportedly "thinking very hard" about this.

Microsoft is no stranger to legal action over its Windows Vista claims, of course, landing in hot water with consumers over the Windows Vista "capable" program.

Enforcement of the anti-trust deal is different, though. It's easy to question the need for continued oversight eight years after the DoJ's anti-trust case, and you can - easily - argue that the pace of development leaves regulators and oversight trailing in the wake of "progress."

In many ways, Microsoft's certainly adopted such an attitude and clearly thought oversight was something it could pay lip service to during those early days of the settlement. It must have seemed like a wrist slap compared to the original break up order from trial judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.

However, Microsoft has been repeatedly upbraided by those monitoring the company, and it's been forced to modify its behavior and make a more concerted attempt to be open as a result.

State attorneys overseeing the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), created under the settlement to license server and client APIs and communications protocols to outsiders, quickly forced Microsoft to revise the prices it charged to license its software for interoperability and make documentation clear and less onerous to licensees.

Microsoft will always argue for more restrictions on licensing in order to "differentiate" itself against competitors and to deliver a "compelling" integrated experience for its users.

If the complaints surrounding the latest Windows Vista campaign are true, though, clearly Microsoft's old habits die-hard. The only question will be whether three years is sufficient. ®

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