Few questions ensued yesterday during Microsoft's regular meeting that it is required to take in order to ensure it complies with its antitrust settlement with the US Department of Justice.

However, one lawyer questioned whether the settlement is having much of an effect on the software marketplace.

One estimate has Microsoft's market share for browsers dropping from 95 per cent to 94 per cent in the last quarter, said Stephen Houck, a lawyer for the California group of plaintiffs in the case. Microsoft's still-commanding lead in the browser market raises long-term concerns about the effectiveness of the settlement, approved by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the US District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit in November 2002.

In June, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia shot down an appeal of the settlement by Massachusetts and two IT industry groups, which questioned whether the settlement was in the public interest. But the long-term economic impact of the settlement is not yet determined, Houck said.

"We're dealing with it on the ground and trying to make sure it does have an impact as it actually unfolds," Houck said of the settlement. "We continue to monitor the market place to see what kind of impact the decree has."

Kollar-Kotelly recommended patience. "It's going to take some time to see the results in the market place," she said.


Microsoft lawyer Charles Rule argued the settlement has had an effect. In the past three months, three new companies have signed up for the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), a communications protocol licensing program that came out of the settlement, and choices in the media playback market place continue to expand, including Apple's iTunes service, Rule said.

"We believe the decree has been a success," Rule said.

Houck also raised concerns about improving MCPP's technical documentation, saying there still appear to be some inaccuracies. Rule said he believes Microsoft has complied with court deadlines to release the documentation but will continue with a "spirit of cooperation" to deal with concerns.

Plaintiffs had raised concerns about MCPP in past status conferences, including the complexity of the license. In an April status conference, Microsoft announced an extension to the program, until November 2009, or until the release of Microsoft's next server operating system, whichever date is later. The company made other changes, including to some royalties, in January.

Kollar-Kotelly told lawyers from both sides that the settlement seems to be moving ahead smoothly. She praised Microsoft's decision to expand the MCPP beyond the November 2007 end of the settlement enforcement.

"Some of these things seem to be going beyond the original agreement, which I'm happy about," she said. "It would appear that some of the concerns the plaintiffs and I had are being addressed."