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Fri, Mar 01, 2002 - Page 21 News List

Microsoft, US offer new changes to proposed deal to end antitrust case

CLARIFICATION The US government is trying to close various loopholes that critics charge would let the software company perpetuate its monopoly

BLOOMBERG , WASHINGTON

Microsoft Corp and the US Justice Department offered mostly minor changes to the proposed settlement of the largest software maker's four-year-old antitrust case.

The changes filed just before midnight in federal court include the deletion of a section that allowed Microsoft to license other companies' software in limited situations.

The modifications came in response to critics who say the settlement is riddled with loopholes that would let Microsoft perpetuate its Windows monopoly. Windows runs 95 percent of the world's personal computers.

"Microsoft remains convinced that the language of the [settlement] negotiated during intense mediation last fall represents a full and reasonable resolution of this case," the company said in a court filing.

The changes were meant to clarify language in the initial settlement that prevents Microsoft from retaliating against computer makers that want to offer machines with alternative operating systems or install other software companies' programs.

US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who has been asked to approve the settlement, gave the company and the government until yesterday to submit alterations following public comments that opposed the agreement by a 2-1 margin.

The biggest change was the elimination of what the government and Microsoft called an ``extremely narrow'' provision designed to allow the Redmond, Washington-based company to license intellectual property in order to avoid violating the settlement.

Most of the other changes are technical and apply to the definitions of software code and Microsoft products under the settlement.

One change adds the word "communicate" to a section that defines the software maker's obligation to make sure non-Microsoft servers work with Windows.

In two sections, Microsoft added the word "unbiased" to language that explained its obligation to provide computer users the ability to launch competing products from the computer desktop.

The language requires the company to allow users to access some Microsoft products and some non-Microsoft products with equal ease.

Microsoft shares fell US$0.16 yesterday to US$58.39. The share price has fallen 5 percent since the settlement was announced on Nov. 2.

Under that settlement, three independent monitors will work at Microsoft's offices to check on its actions and accounts.

The company must also provide information to "middleware" producers, which make programs that run on Windows that may compete with Microsoft products.

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