The US Department of Justice has revealed that it is investigating antitrust complaints related to Microsoft Corp’s forthcoming Vista operating system, but has also declared itself satisfied with the company’s plan to license Windows source code to rivals.
The DoJ revealed in the latest joint status report filed with the court that it has received a complaint related to Microsoft’s Vista operating system, which is due for release at the end of the year.
The complaint regarded the ability of OEMs to customize the first-boot experience in Vista and in particular the Welcome Center, a new interface that present the user with various setup options and commercial offers, it said.
Government lawyers are also talking with industry members about additional concerns related to Windows Vista, although the DoJ noted that it had not reached any conclusions as to the merits of the complaints and would continue to monitor the situation.
There was better news for Microsoft in that DoJ lawyers have voiced approval for its plan to license its Windows source code in Europe and the US to better enable competitors and developers to ensure interoperability with Microsoft’s communications protocols.
Microsoft’s agreement to license its source code is a constructive proposal that addresses many of the Plaintiff’s concerns with the technical documentation, wrote DoJ lawyers. Plaintiff’s initial assessment is that the source code will, in combination with the technical documentation and technical support provided by Microsoft, assist MCPP licensees in implementing the MCPP protocols.
The MCPP (Microsoft Communications Protocol Program) created by Microsoft in August 2002 ahead of a court-mandated settlement with the DoJ and states as a means of licensing Windows client protocols to third parties.
The DoJ last month criticized Microsoft for its failure to meet US antitrust remedy technical documentation submission guidelines stating that that Microsoft’s failure to keep to service level guidelines in its response to issues raised by the court appointed Technical Committee was impacting the its ability to carry out prototype implementation projects.
With the availability of the Windows source code, the DoJ said the Technical Committee would now revise its procedures to take into account source code access, differentiating between issues that can be solved by reference to the source code and those that cannot.
DoJ lawyers added that while they have not concluded their evaluation of Microsoft’s terms they also believe that the licensing plan could make it possible for licensees to use the source code without undue fear of additional intellectual property liability.
The Free Software Foundation Europe last month warned open source software developers to be wary of Microsoft plan, fearing that free software developers could become the victim of copyright infringement claims if they see the code.
Microsoft’s Windows licensing plan was an attempt to move antitrust discussions with the European Commission beyond what the company’s general counsel, Brad Smith, called arcane arguments about documentation accuracy. The EC has yet to officially respond to the plan.