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Feds Slam Microsoft on Compliance

Microsoft (Quote, Chart) is in full court press for this year's release of Windows Vista. Maybe that's why it has taken its eye off the U.S. antitrust judgment ball.

In a response to Microsoft's monthly status report, the plaintiffs in the case slammed the software vendor for falling behind on replying to requests from the monitoring Technical Committee (TC). The TC monitors Microsoft's compliance with the terms of the November 2002 settlement of the antitrust case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.

One focus of the TC has been the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), instituted as part of the original judgment, which licenses the protocols that let third-party software vendors ensure their products can communicate with a Microsoft server operating system product.

To date, 26 firms have taken licenses, and there are a dozen products that have been shipped under the program, according to Microsoft.

In its response filed on Monday, the plaintiffs, which are the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), 17 states and the District of Columbia, complained, "Microsoft has not detailed the seriousness of the current situation."

They complained that, since mid-November 2005, Microsoft has fallen significantly behind in responding to technical documentation issues submitted by the TC.

While Microsoft had met the service level guidelines (SLGs) established to measure the timeliness of its responses 100 percent of the time, they said, in the majority of cases, Microsoft no longer is meeting the guidelines.

"Microsoft is working hard to resolve the concerns raised today by the DOJ. In our filing Jan. 17, we detailed the efforts we've made to increase the speed of our responses to technical documentation issues found by the Technical Committee," Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans told internetnews.com.

But the plaintiffs said that, in its latest status report filed on Jan. 17, 2006, Microsoft failed to detail the number of people working on compliance.

"Microsoft needs to dramatically increase the resources devoted to responding to technical documentation issues, in order to get its performance under the SLGs back on track," the filing said. "Until it does, the backlog grows day by day, as the number of technical documentation issues identified by the TC staff is not declining."

Evans responded, "We ... underscored our commitment to expend whatever resources are necessary to address these issues, including hiring as many qualified people as we can find to accomplish these highly specialized tasks."

The three members of the TC are experts chosen jointly by Microsoft and the plaintiffs. Their office referred requests for comment to the DoJ, which did not immediately respond.

In addition to the increasingly sluggish flow of information from Microsoft, the plaintiffs said Microsoft had glossed over some critical details in its description of the installation of TC testing hardware in an Indian lab.

When the TC team arrived in India, they said, Microsoft informed them that its prior description of the network infrastructure in one of the test labs was inaccurate. The TC had designed its monitoring system based on the faulty information and had to create a workaround.

If it didn't, the response document said, a delay in completion of the work is virtually certain.



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