WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Microsoft Corp. must begin offering new licenses Tuesday under the more liberal terms of its proposed settlement with the Justice Department, the department said in an advisory Monday.
For its part, the software giant said it is trying to comply with the settlement even though it has not yet been approved by a federal judge.
Microsoft agreed to a proposed consent decree in February to settle a massive Justice Department antitrust suit. Nine of 18 states joined the department in the settlement, but nine others are still suing the company.
At the core of the department's suit was an allegation that Microsoft was acting as a corporate bully -- using access to its ubiquitous Windows operating system to force computer manufacturers, vendors and operators to use other Microsoft applications, such as Internet Explorer.
The vast majority of new computers are sold with Windows already installed. Among other things, the department wants to force Microsoft to allow non-Microsoft applications to be used in concert with Windows.
U.S. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly held hearings on the proposed agreement earlier this summer, and she is expected to rule shortly on whether the settlement is adequate or whether harsher terms should be imposed on Microsoft.
However, just because the judge has not yet approved the settlement does not mean Microsoft is not required to abide by it.
"Because Microsoft agreed to be bound by certain provisions of the proposed decree pending the approval of the court, it must begin offering the (new) licenses on Aug. 6, 2002," the department advisory said.
In a statement, the Justice Department said it was issuing Monday's advisory "as part of its monitoring of Microsoft's implementation of the proposed consent decree agreed to by Microsoft, the United States and the nine settling states on Feb. 27, 2002. The goal is to ensure that the public is apprised of important developments in compliance and thereby to facilitate appropriate input to the department from the computer industry."
In other words, the department wants Microsoft's customers to report whether the company is abiding by the proposed consent decree.
Even with its proposed compliance, Microsoft is not out of the woods yet.
The Justice Department said it had "not pre-cleared the (new) licenses and is undertaking a careful and thorough review to determine whether they are compliant with the terms of the proposed consent decree."
According to the advisory, the department "is strongly committed to ensuring that the licenses provide a mechanism for reasonable and non-discriminatory access to the relevant technology in a manner consistent with the terms of the proposed final judgment."
The department said it would continue to issue compliance advisories as the situation warrants.
For its part, Microsoft said it "has been engaged in extensive efforts to meet the milestones established under the consent decree, many of which will be reached in the coming weeks."
Microsoft said the achieved milestones include "new uniform licensing terms that are effective for the top 20 computer manufacturers ... that license Windows desktop operating systems, and which Microsoft has also provided to all royalty (manufacturers) licensing Windows desktop operating systems."
The company said it is issuing licenses for its software on a new one-year cycle, and manufacturers will give it feedback on compliance at the end of each cycle.
Another milestone, again according to Microsoft, is the "release to manufacturing of Windows XP Service Pack 1 and Windows 2000 Professional Service Pack 3, both of which will include new mechanisms that computer manufacturers and consumers can use to add and remove access to certain Windows features and easily set defaults for competing software."
Another milestone is the publication of new technical information, Microsoft said, including about "300 Windows Application Programming Interfaces ('APIs') that developers can use to write applications for Windows, available for no additional charge."
Microsoft said it is making available "approximately 113 proprietary protocols that server vendors can license and use as a new way of achieving interoperability with Windows desktops."
The company said it has "has adhered to several core principles, including erring on the side of reasonableness, listening to feedback and acting on it, and reinforcing compliance as a corporate commitment across the company."