18 February 2002A US federal judge has told software giant Microsoft it must disclose further elements of the source code for Windows, including parts of the latest version of the operating system, Windows XP. The order by US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is a major development in the four-year legal battle against Microsoft because it will give access to Windows XP and Windows 2000 source code, packages that were never part of the original anti-trust case against Microsoft.
The ruling is positioned by Microsoft as a real threat. It argues the decision will allow competitors working closely with the remaining US states still pursuing the company to access its programs. In November 2001, Microsoft reached a settlement with the US Justice Department and nine states, but a further nine and the District of Columbia have continued with their litigation.
The threat of exposure of additional parts of Windows highlights one of the key divisions between the powers that have settled and those proposing an additional ‘remedy’. The Justice Department settlement is designed to place restrictions on Microsoft’s business practices, but it is not intended to directly impact Windows. In contrast, the litigating states want to expose the way Microsoft develops and sells its software.
At issue is Microsoft’s suggestion that Windows and its Internet Explorer (IE) browser cannot be deemed as standalone programs. Its opponents, on the other hand, want independent experts to examine the code in order to show the operating system would still be viable without the addition of IE functionality.
The move to extend demands to include Windows XP source code has led to speculation that the anti-Microsoft forces have hired hardline California attorney Bill Lockyer to play a more prominent role in the case.