MS Antitrust – Microsoft tech docs back on track, says judge


A U.S. district judge on Tuesday praised the schedule set up in a revamped technical documentation project that’s part of the four-year-old antitrust settlement between Microsoft Corp. and the U.S. government.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, hailed a new plan that would deliver 58 documents related to Microsoft’s software communication protocols by Dec. 15, with more documents coming in February, April and May.

Kollar-Kotelly in May 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 Tuesday’s antitrust compliance hearing. “We seem to be on the correct time table.” Kollar-Kotelly, in an antitrust settlement approved in November 2002, ordered Microsoft to create the technical documentation so that competing software companies can buy licenses 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 Oct. 25, and is on track to deliver another 26 documents by Dec. 15. The technical documentation that’s most useful to protocol licensees will be delivered first, Microsoft said.

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

In addition, there were 943 identified problems with the current technical documentation as of Oct. 31, up from 835 problems identified as of Sept. 30, 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 U.S. 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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