Microsoft has reached a settlement with the United States government in its three-year antitrust case.
The settlement, which must be approved by the US federal judge overseeing the case, would impose restrictions and regulations for a five-year period on how the company develops and licenses software, works with independent software vendors, and communicates about the inner workings of its software with partners and competitors.
Although the Department of Justice and Microsoft reached agreement, the 18 states that were a party to the suit have not yet made a decision whether to participate in the landmark settlement.
According to US Attorney General John Ashcroft: ‘The historic settlement reached by the Department of Justice and Microsoft Corporation will put an end to Microsoft’s unlawful conduct.’
‘The proposed settlement puts in place enforcement measures that will require Microsoft to disclose (it’s) internal operating system interfaces and protocols. These disclosures in turn will create opportunities for independent software vendors to develop products that will be competitive with Microsoft’s products.’
‘The settlement also gives computer manufacturers flexibility to contract freely with competing software developers, and to place on Microsoft’s operating system their middleware products, such as browsers, instant messaging software, and media players. Additionally, computer manufacturers and software developers will be free to do business with Microsoft’s competitors without fear of retaliation.’
Charles James, the assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division added that the proposed settlement stops Microsoft’s ‘offending conduct’ by prohibiting actions by the company to impede the implementation of competing middleware products. ‘Those practices are affirmatively prohibited,’ he said.
Most importantly, Microsoft is required to provide technology that will allow computer manufacturers to actually replace Microsoft products on a function-by-function basis deep inside the operating system platform.