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Microsoft coughs up antitrust docs

Judge praises Microsoft's modified schedule

The process of extracting technical documentation from Microsoft following its antitrust judgement is back on track – thanks to a revamped schedule.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, has hailed a new plan that will deliver 58 documents related to Microsoft's software communication protocols by 15 December, with more documents coming in February, April and May.

In May Kollar-Kotelly approved a two-year extension to parts of her antitrust judgment against Microsoft because of ongoing problems in the technical documentation for Microsoft's software communication protocols.

"I hope this approach works," Kollar-Kotelly said during yesterday's antitrust compliance hearing. "We seem to be on the correct timetable."

Kollar-Kotelly, in an antitrust settlement approved in November 2002, ordered Microsoft to create the technical documentation so that competing software companies can buy licences to Microsoft's communications protocols and make products that work with Microsoft software.

The judge expressed support for the new plan after numerous delays and past complaints about the quality of technical documentation. "We'll have to see if this achieves the results that have eluded us so far," she said after Microsoft representatives explained the technical documentation 'reset', as they called it.

Under the plan, Microsoft delivered 32 technical documents to the court-mandated technical committee overseeing the settlement by 25 October, and is on track to deliver another 26 documents by 15 December. The technical documentation that's most useful to protocol licencees will be delivered first, Microsoft said.

The schedule has Microsoft delivering another 99 technical documents between 22 February and 29 May. About 90 days after the initial release of a document, Microsoft will give the technical committee and licencees an online build of the document.

In addition, there were 943 identified problems with the current technical documentation as of 31 October, up from 835 problems identified as of 30 September, according to court records. Microsoft will work on fixing those problems as part of the revamped documentation project, said Robert Muglia, senior vice-president of Microsoft's server and tools business.

Lawyers for the US Department of Justice and some of the plaintiff states in the antitrust case said the documentation plan seems to be working. But Stephen Houck, a lawyer for the California group of state plaintiffs in the case, noted that hundreds of problems still exist in the current documentation.

"While much as been accomplished, there's much left to do," Houck said.

Muglia walked the judge through an example of the new technical documentation, and Kollar-Kotelly noted the new version had "a lot more details".

"My only wish is that it had been done earlier, so we wouldn't be at this point," she said.

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