Says Microsoft's compliance efforts are satisfactory

Federal antitrust investigators acquired a recent build of the up-and-coming Windows 7 OS, as part of its ongoing supervision of Microsoft’s efforts to comply its 2002 antitrust settlement.

The report, a court-appointed affair written jointly by Microsoft and the Technical Committee overseeing its compliance efforts, focused mainly on two areas: documentation of the company’s portfolio of communications and file formats – a major point of the 2002 settlement – and ensuring that all current and upcoming versions of Windows do not unnecessarily favor other Microsoft applications, like Internet Explorer or Windows Mail.

To that end, committee investigators are currently conducting “ongoing” tests with current Windows flavors to discover “middleware-related bugs,” where Microsoft software unnecessarily favors other Microsoft software given viable alternatives: Two such bugs, dubbed “browser overrides” by investigators, cause Outlook Express and the Windows Help View to ignore users’ preference of browser when opening a link, consistently launching Internet Explorer instead. Investigators determined that Microsoft had since “included these corrections in XP SP 3 or Vista SP 1,” with another bug relating to the “Open With” feature to be fixed for Windows 7.

Additionally, committee investigators reported that they have “begun to review Windows 7 itself,” compliments of a recent build provided by Microsoft. Very little is mentioned, however, with the only statement of note indicating that testing is “going forward” and that the Technical Committee “will [be conducting] middleware-related tests on future builds of Windows 7.”

Unfortunately, the antitrust settlement’s current terms mean that it is unlikely that investigators will be able to inspect Windows 7 to its release, as their supervision will expire in November 2009, several months ahead of Windows 7’s predicted 2010 release. As a result, unless the deadline is extended – something that 17 different states are trying to do – committee investigators will be scrambling to review as much of the OS as possible within their limited timeframe.

Overall, the report casts Microsoft’s efforts in a favorable light, with the company cooperating in both the letter and spirit of the settlement terms levied against it. Between ongoing, court-mandated interoperability efforts, documenting previously proprietary protocols, and rendering its flagship products company-neutral, Microsoft looks to be on track with its 2009 deadline.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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