AGs ask for extension of Microsoft settlement

John O'Brien Sep. 12, 2007, 3:57pm


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Even though a group of state attorneys general recently alleged a 2002 settlement has done nothing to fix Microsoft's monopoly, six of them on Tuesday requested an extra five years be tacked on to the agreement.

The group previously submitted a report to a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that claimed Microsoft's business presence is as strong as ever despite the agreement with the federal Department of Justice.

Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, California's Jerry Brown, Massachusett's Martha Coakley, the District of Columbia's Linda Singer, Iowa's Tom Miller, Kansas' Paul Morrison and Minnesota's Lori Swanson make up the group.

The settlement forced Microsoft to submit quarterly activity reports to a federal judge and expires in November.

"The five-year judgment is five years too short -- inadequate to monitor and fight Microsoft's monopolistic stranglehold on the market," Blumenthal said.

"Microsoft's new Vista operating system has barely emerged, and already has threatened to undermine competing desktop search options. While the court-imposed remedies have allowed competitors to surface, they are only beginning to compete, and must be given more time to mature."

The attorneys general admit no product has been introduced in the past 15 years that seriously rivals Microsoft's middleware, software that connects software components and applications, but insinuates that may be because no other company has the means to compete. Microsoft's web browser Internet Explorer is an example of middleware enjoying the benefits of the company's monopoly, they say.

Added in the report is the fact that Microsoft's share of the operating system market has remained steady, at 93 percent in 1991 to 92 percent in 2006, and its share of the web browser market is 85 percent.

The group also complained that the agreement was a deviation from the DOJ's standard practice of securing agreements for 10 years.

"Innovation and competition clearly depend on continued market monitoring by the court and others," Blumenthal said. "Our multi-state group is calling on the court to continue its oversight for five more years in order to fully protect consumers and the competitive market in a most vital industry."

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