Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) have made changes to the proposed settlement that will end the antitrust case launched against the company in 1998.
The changes, submitted to the court yesterday [Thursday], come after months of criticism that the initial deal let the software giant off to lightly.
But that criticism, and an ongoing rival settlement case, look unlikely to cease, given the limited changes set out in the new proposal.
According to the DoJ, it had received more than 30,000 public comments submitted to the Department's Antitrust Division since the original settlement was announced in November last year.
The bulk of the additional changes are clarifications. For example, the Justice Department said a sentence has been added to make clear that Microsoft cannot manipulate the Windows desktop to discriminate against non-Microsoft products.
Microsoft has agreed to remove a clause that its opponents maintained would have given it the ability to use hardware patents from computer vendors without payment.
Microsoft said it agreed with the government's request to drop it "in the interest of eliminating confusion."
But information revealed in depositions leading up to the other Microsoft trial, may have given Microsoft an incentive to agree to removing the hardware clause.
Richard Fade, a Microsoft executive, said that during recent contract talks computer makers had objected to Microsoft's interpretation of the provision.
That deposition is part of the case brought by nines states that opposed the original proposal when it was announced.
That group is seeking far more substantive changes than those set out by the DoJ and Microsoft.
The nine opposing states maintain that their proposal will close a series of loopholes in the DoJ settlement and force Microsoft to sell a cheaper, stripped-down version of Windows.
Microsoft has asked US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who will preside over both cases, to dismiss the nine states case, saying the states are trying to "displace" the DoJ's decision to settle.
Kollar-Kotelly will chair a hearing, starting on 6 March, on whether the proposed settlement is in the public interest.
Separate hearings on the demands for tougher sanctions will begin on 11 March and will likely run for six to eight weeks.
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