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Microsoft to Meet with Antitrust Regulators about Longhorn

The back-and-forth between Microsoft and government regulators about whether Windows "Longhorn" will violate the U.S. antitrust agreement will escalate this month to a face-to-face meeting.

"Plaintiffs have prepared a list of topics that relate to the Final Judgments that Plaintiffs wish to track as Microsoft progresses in its development of Longhorn, enabling early detection and resolution of any potential areas of concern," according to the "Joint Status Report on Microsoft's Compliance with the Final Judgments" filed last week. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requires the reports every six months, although several interim reports have been filed between the deadlines.

"Plaintiffs have supplied this list to Microsoft and Microsoft has agreed to brief Plaintiffs regularly on these topics. The first of these briefings is scheduled for mid-February," the report states.

A January 2004 version of the joint status report first mentioned the concern of the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general about potential antitrust violations in Longhorn. At that time, the parties reported that Microsoft had submitted a preview version of Longhorn to the technical committee that oversees the case. Microsoft had made its first technical preview of Longhorn, PDC Longhorn, available to developers at the Professional Developers Conference in October 2003, during the period covered by the January 2004 status report.

In the July 2004 report, the plaintiffs reported receiving and reviewing materials about Longhorn. That status report stated, "While Longhorn is not scheduled for release for some time, Plaintiffs believe that early attention to these issues will enable Plaintiffs and Microsoft to address any potential concerns in a timely manner, before the final structure of the product is locked into place." About a month and a half later, Microsoft announced broad changes to the structure of Longhorn -- eliminating the WinFS and broadening the Avalon and Indigo pillars to allow their inclusion in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. At that time, the company also said the client version of Longhorn would ship in 2006.

An interim report in October, specifically mentions submitting the list of Longhorn topics to Microsoft. The joint status reports do not detail the concerns that the DOJ and state attorneys general have raised about Longhorn. Stacy Drake, a Microsoft spokeswoman, declined to discuss the specific concerns or the general areas that regulators are tracking.

Also in the January 2005 report, Windows XP Service Pack 2 emerged as an area of concern for regulators. Microsoft began distributing Windows XP Service Pack 2 in August, although it was not mentioned in the October interim report. "The [technical committee] has conducted a thorough analysis of Windows XP and Service Pack 2 with respect to its treatment of competing middleware and defaults," the new report states. "This work has identified several circumstances in which further information from Microsoft is needed to determine whether Windows satisfactorily honors user middleware choices."

According to the report, Microsoft recently responded to the committee's information request on Windows XP SP2, and the committee is reviewing the response.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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