Should the U.S. Department of Justice be done with its antitrust oversight of Microsoft or not? Or are we looking at a turf war between the DOJ and the European Union's European Commission over who gets to manage the unruly Microsoft? Today, the DOJ asked U.S. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to give it another 18 months of oversight. It wants more time, more leverage, to get Microsoft to fix its notorious problems with the publication of its communications protocols. In the meantime, the EC is still waiting, but giving Microsoft another week, to respond to its finding that bundling Internet Explorer with Windows violates antitrust regulations.
Hints of this development might have been found in statements made by the company yesterday when Microsoft released the beta of Exchange 2010, and announced the new name of its next generation Office products. In the press release, Chris Capossela, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Information Worker Product Management Group, promised that the Office 2010 products would be interoperable with others' wares. He said:
"There are two ways we are achieving this. First, we are implementing new document format standards and have dedicated product engineering resources to deliver technical documentation for in-market and future Office-related products. Second, we have published implementation notes and a great deal of technical documentation through our Open Specification Promise so third parties can develop products that work with Microsoft Office-related products. In 2008 alone, we published about 20,000 pages of documentation related to protocols and formats used by Microsoft Office, Exchange and SharePoint Server. "
Oddly, the DOJ's request on Thursday is an about-face from an earlier decision it made in 2007. The original antitrust order had already been extended by two years because of complaints about the state of the technical documentation. It was originally scheduled to expire in November 2007. When a group of states asked for another extension, the DOJ refused. These were the states involved in the original antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.
In the meantime, the EU stepped in and started handing Microsoft big fines from what it saw as antitrust violations. In February 2008, the EC fined Microsoft $2.2 billion over what it saw as Microsoft's failure to publish adequate documentation on its communication protocols. Low and behold, Microsoft announced its Open Specification Promise. Amidst all this, the infamous battle over OOXML was taking place as European employees of Microsoft allegedly resorted to a whole list of unseemly behavior to get the document specification passed as a fast-track ISO standard.
But wait, the EC is not done. Several weeks ago it sided with a then year-old complaint filed by Opera Software that claimed that bundling Internet Explorer with Windows is an antitrust violation. The EC is waiting for a defense from Microsoft before it presumably forces Microsoft to unbundle IE and/or pay fines or other such penalties. The EC gave Microsoft an extension of the deadline for a reply until April 21 and yesterday Microsoft confirmed that the EC had actually given it another week, to April 28, to formulate its answer.
And today, the DOJ decides that it wants continued oversight over Microsoft afterall. Hmm.
Microsoft has always been a vicious competitor. But we suspect that issues over publication of its protocols has less to do with the DOJ's motives than the EC's pending decision about IE. It seems as though the DOJ doesn't want the EC calling all of Microsoft's shots.
Visit the Microsoft Subnet web site for more news, blogs, podcasts. Subscribe to all Microsoft Subnet bloggers. Sign up for the bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)
MS Exchange 2010 beta arrives and it's not all about the cloud
Microsoft promises to reduce prices for cloud WS2008 licenses
Adding Some Zoom to Office PowerPoint 2007
Fear and Loathing in Windows 7
5 Tactics Microsoft Is Using To Battle Linux for Cloud Dominance
Cloud computing explained in easy to understand terms
April giveaways galore: Microsoft UC and Office 2007 books, free training from Global Knowledge
Follow Microsoft Subnet on Twitter
Julie Bort is the editor of Microsoft Subnet and Network World's Online Community Editor. She also writes the Open Source Subnet blog and is the editor responsible for the Cisco Subnet and Open Source Subnet web sites. If you have an idea for a blog, or a news tip on Microsoft, Cisco or Open Source technologies, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 970-482-6454 or follow Julie on Twitter @Julie188.
The Microsoft Subnet blog is the official blog of the Network World's Microsoft Subnet community. Microsoft Subnet is the independent voice of Microsoft customers and is your gateway to daily Microsoft news, blogs, opinion, books, prize giveaways and more. Visit the Microsoft Subnet index page daily, and while you are there, subscribe to the Microsoft newsletter.
Policy on comments: Respectful discussion is welcomed! However comments that use inappropriate language, consist of name calling or personal attacks, or include accusations of wrongdoing are not appropriate. Those comments will be deleted or edited