US states reject Microsoft settlement

Law officers in several US states are refusing to settle the three-and-half year old antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

Law officers in several US states are refusing to settle the three-and-half year old antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

At a press conference in Boston on 5 November, the Massachusetts attorney general, Tom Reilly, said that major changes would have to be made before he would sign the agreement.

After the DOJ announced its settlement proposal last week, the 18 state attorneys general asked for time to review the details. US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted them until 6 November to decide whether to accept the deal.

Reilly said the proposal as it stands, is fundamentally flawed, and requires better enforcement mechanisms.

"They [Microsoft] have a consistent and long pattern of not playing by the rules," Reilly said. He commented that the proposed agreement is riddled with loopholes.

Reilly claimed that a core group of other attorneys general is likely to reject the proposal as well, which would lead to a continuation of the fight. "There are other states that are disturbed by the way this happened," he said.

The attorneys general of California, Iowa and New York have been the most public voices in the states fight against Microsoft. California is home to some of Microsoft's biggest rivals, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. While New York is home to IBM and Computer Associates. Massachusetts has relied on a strong technology sector for its economic growth over the past decade.

Reilly said that he made the decision to oppose the settlement after consulting with industry representatives and small technology businesses.

The attorney general for Illinois, Jim Ryan, has announced that he is inclined to support the deal, saying that the terms appear to achieve the overall objectives of the states' lawsuit.

Key points of the settlement include a broad definition for middleware software that includes browsers, e-mail clients, media players, and instant messaging software; and the ability for computer manufacturers and consumers to swap third-party middleware programs for Microsoft's own middleware, and run them on Windows.

If the states continue to pursue the case, a resolution could be months or years away, with the potential for substantially greater penalties for Microsoft.

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