Microsoft Corp. should be forced to offer a modular version of its Windows operating system in addition to the fully integrated version of the product, according to the nine states and the District of Columbia that have refused to sign off on the proposed antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the Department of Justice.
In an amended version of their remedy proposals filed with the District Court in Washington on Monday, the states said that a clarification was necessary relating to Microsofts abuse of commingled code and products to maintain its monopoly in the operating system.
"As a result of discovery, we have concluded that, in addition to Microsofts fully integrated version of the operating system, the company should be required to offer a modular version that will allow equipment manufacturers and others to make their own decisions on adding middleware products that consumers want such as browsers or media players," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.
Microsoft would therefore not be required to provide numerous versions of the operating system, he added.
While the changes were largely minor, the revisions clarified "the reasonable and responsible remedies we are seeking in our continuing effort to stop Microsofts illegal behavior. The proposal is entirely consistent with the objectives of our original remedy proposal, and the proposed changes are only minor modifications to make our remedy more clear and precise," Miller said.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler told eWEEK on Monday that the revisions were surprising because they appeared to be a last-minute change in process and was not forecast in last Fridays pre-trial statements. Microsoft was reviewing the filing and had no specific comments, he said.
"While it seems that the states are realizing that many aspects of their first proposal are unworkable, Im not sure that the proposed changes adequately address all these issues, and any minor changes will most certainly not solve all the problems raised," he said.
Jonathan Zuck, the president of the technology advocacy group ACT (Association for Competitive Technology) and a supporter of Microsofts legal position, said the states had once again missed the point.
While the amendments had addressed some of Microsofts concerns, they continued to "ignore the harmful effects of their proposal on small and midsize software developers that make up the lions share of the industry."
"These changes do not address the $80 billion cost of their proposal to independent software developers and consumers. They are playing trial and error with the crown jewels of our nations economy, those entrepreneurial technology companies that fuel innovation. Lets leave this to the industry and consumers, not a bunch of lawyers playing eenie meenie minie moe," he said.
The $80 billion figure was found in a recent economic study on the states proposed remedies by Stan Liebowitz, an economics professor at the Management School for the University of Texas at Dallas and presented by ACT.