The US Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday filed a lengthy report outlining the impact of the proposed settlement it reached with software maker Microsoft to end its three-year antitrust battle.

The federal government detailed what it expects will come from the November 6 settlement that it and nine of the 18 state plaintiffs reached with Microsoft. The report was filed in response to the order of the court.

The DoJ said: "The terms of the agreement will ensure that computer manufacturers have contractual and economic freedom to make decisions about distributing and supporting non-Microsoft middleware products without fear of coercion or retaliation by Microsoft."

Choice decision New choices for PC makers include the ability to ship computers with more than one operating system installed, or with a dual-boot feature for opening different operating systems on start up. They will also be able to include products from Microsoft's competitors that are considered "middleware", such as instant-messaging applications and media players.

The settlement also ensures Microsoft won't sidestep the remedies by withholding all or part of the technology that will enable competitors to develop products that mesh with Microsoft's software, according to the report. Those include all the protocols and APIs (application programming interfaces) that are needed to write compatible software. The settlement forces Microsoft to provide access to the Windows source code, but it can impose controls on the access.

Overseeing this will be a three-person Technical Committee, with members who are technical experts on Microsoft's software and responsible for making sure Microsoft complies with the settlement.

The filing notes that private plaintiffs can still file suit against Microsoft if they can argue they have been injured by Microsoft's illegal behaviour. If they litigate and win, they can still receive an award set at three times the amount of the damages they are found to have suffered, known as treble damages.

The public will have 60 days to respond to the impact report once the 68-page document is published in the New York Times, Washington Post and San Jose Mercury News.