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Microsoft commits to competition principles

Under terms of antitrust settlement

Microsoft will commit to following the principles of its 2002 antitrust settlement with the US government beyond its end in late 2007 and in some cases, the company will expand upon those requirements, a Microsoft executive said yesterday.

Microsoft has a responsibility to encourage both innovation and competition in the IT industry, said Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel, during a speech in Washington DC. The company will expand the operating-system antitrust settlement by releasing all of its software APIs (application programming interfaces), for programs such as Microsoft Office, and not just middleware APIs as required in the November 2002 settlement in US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Microsoft will also commit to allow OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to remove any Microsoft products when shipping a PC with the Windows operating system, not just remove "middleware" that's tightly integrated with Windows such as Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player, Smith said. Microsoft will commit to allowing OEMs to switch defaults for applications or remove Microsoft's products entirely from Windows, he said.

Smith's policy announcement comes a week after the European Commission fined Microsoft €280.5m (about £191.5m) for failing to comply with the terms of a March 2004 antitrust settlement. In May the US Department of Justice asked a judge to extend parts of the US antitrust settlement dealing with technical documentation requirements until late 2009 or beyond.

Even though some antitrust issues remain, that won't stop Microsoft from moving forward with commitments to uphold principles of competition, Smith said. "The US antitrust ruling recognised that competition at all levels should be encouraged," he said.

Microsoft's 12 "Windows principles" will ensure choice for computer manufacturers and customers and will guarantee that software developers will be able to create applications that run on top of Windows, Smith said. "Ultimately, users are in control of their PCs," Smith said. "Users get to decide what runs on their PCs when they take them home."


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