States request extension of Microsoft settlement

Written by Phil Cogar

September 12, 2007 // 4:39 p.m.

Tags: #antitrust #microsoft #oversight #us

Even though Firefox and Opera have started taking a larger chunk of the internet browser market while Linux is becoming a more popular choice for an OS, six states have asked a judge to extend the antitrust oversight of Microsoft to 2012.

The whole issue started back in 1998 when the Department of Justice, along with twenty states, alleged that Microsoft had been using monopolistic practices in order to keep a stranglehold on the OS and internet browser market. One of the biggest causes for concern was the fact that Internet Explorer was bundled with all versions of the Windows OS giving many users no real reason to pick a different browser of their own choosing.

The case ended up being settled late in 2001, with Microsoft agreeing to give full access to its API to third party developers. It also had to allow an elected panel of three people to have full access to its systems, records, and source code for five years. The decree is set to expire in November of this year.

Apparently though, six states and the District of Columbia are not pleased with the way Microsoft has complied with the court's orders. The group is now requesting that the oversight be extended to 2012 in order to ensure that the company has fully complied and given third party OS developers and internet browser developers a better chance to gain more market share. Currently, Microsoft has 92 percent of the operating system market while having 85 percent of the internet browser market.

"Microsoft continues to have a stranglehold on the two products - that almost all consumers use for accessing these Web services and applications," said Stephen Houck, a lawyer for the California group.

While it is true that Microsoft has remained dominant in both of the markets, many feel that the company is no longer using monopolistic methods to force the use of its software products alone. The issue even seems to be divided among those that have been involved with the case over the past few years.

"The final judgments have been successful in protecting the development and distribution of middleware products and in preventing Microsoft from continuing the type of exclusionary behavior that led to the original lawsuit," said Thomas O. Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's antitrust division.

The states have until October 15 to file a proposal that states the terms and rationality for the extension. The EU is set to announce its own decision regarding the same matter this coming Monday.

Is Microsoft still using monopoly tactics to force its users not to use other products? Tell us your thoughts on this case and where you think it should lead over in the forums or in the comment section below.

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