States ask for greater access to Microsoft code

The nine states that remain entangled with Microsoft in its landmark antitrust case proposed a set of remedies Friday with a U.S. federal court. They include forcing the software maker to offer a version of Windows that does not come bundled with any applications, and to give free and open access to the source code for its Internet Explorer Web browser.

In the 40-page document filed Friday with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the states go well beyond the terms of a proposed settlement that Microsoft forged with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in early November. The other nine states who are plaintiffs in the case have signed on to that deal.

"These proposed remedies are intended to prohibit the recurrence of ... the Microsoft practices that were held to be unlawful by the Court of Appeals," the states said in Friday's filing.

Microsoft has until Wednesday to respond to the latest remedy proposal. A spokesman for the company would not comment on the proposal in detail until Microsoft has had a chance to review it, but in a brief statement the software maker called the filing "extreme" and "not commensurate with what is left out of the case."

The states that held out on the DOJ's proposal -- California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Utah, as well as the District of Columbia -- have said they are not satisfied with the remedies suggested by the DOJ and are seeking harsher measures.

The remedies proposed Friday would also force Microsoft to add support to its software for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java programming language, which Microsoft pulled from its operating system with the release of Windows XP. Microsoft would also have to license the source code for Windows indiscriminately to hardware makers as well as third-party software vendors.

The remedies would also allow hardware makers to configure Windows PCs with applications, such as Web browsers or media players, from third-party software makers. They would also allow hardware makers to display icons on a Windows desktop for applications other than Microsoft's, and make those applications launch automatically when a Windows computer is started up.

The states also proposed a remedy that would force Microsoft to "auction to a third party the right to port Microsoft Office to competing operating systems," such as Linux and Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS.

Meanwhile, the federal settlement proposal is undergoing a 60-day public comment period before Kollar-Kotelly is scheduled to make a judgement. As part of that deal Microsoft has agreed to loosen its restrictions on how hardware makers can configure Windows PCs. It allows PC makers to replace the "middleware" on a Windows PC, such as the media player and instant messaging client, with products from vendors that compete with Microsoft, and includes provisions designed to protect those hardware makers from being retaliated against.

The DOJ's proposed settlement also would create a three-person panel to oversee the compliance of its remedies. The states went beyond that, saying that Microsoft should face civil penalties if it does not comply with the settlement.

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