California group of states want US District Court to extend antitrust case until 2012

Antitrust pressure resurfaces for Microsoft

A group of state plaintiffs will ask US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly for a five year extension to the current 2002 antitrust case against Microsoft, the group’s lawyer, Stephen Houck said in a statement on Tuesday.

The group, dubbed the California group of states, the larger of two state groups that sued Microsoft for alleged anticompetitive behaviour at the turn of the millennium, composed of California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia,

It claims that it does not "have any confidence" that Microsoft will continue to adhere to the guidelines it has had to since 2002 without being watched. It wants a five-year extension to the current antitrust case with it focusing on Microsoft’s middleware operation in particular and defined the exception of looking at the royalty fees that Microsoft can charge vendors for OEM versions of its Windows operating system.

"Microsoft continues to have a stranglehold over the two products…that nearly all consumers use," Houck told an antitrust compliance hearing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. "Very little has happened in five years…in those markets."

PC Retail though has to question that last statement. While we would never claim that Microsoft was not still dominant to some extent in those markets, we would hardly call Linux beginning to be shipped on consumer-focused machines by major vendors and Firefox reaching 400 million downloads as "very little."

Microsoft’s lawyer, Rick Rule declined to comment on specifics saying that he and Microsoft would need to take time to consider a response to the request. He did however say: "We think the picture of the computer industry is much rosier. We think it’s clear that the decree has done its job."

Microsoft spokesperson, Jack Evans later confirmed Rule’s statement, reiterating that Microsoft would not comment until it had seen the formal request. That is expected to be submitted to the US District Court mid-October.

The news comes the day after concerns were raised by the European Commission over the impact the decision by the Grand Chamber of the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg could have upon its ability to regulate high-tech industries.

If the court finds that European Commission mishandled the case, then it could find its powers reduced – something which would impact heavily on the commission’s investigation into Intel as well as the one into Microsoft.

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