Vista Marketing Program Receives Big Complaints

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Government antitrust attorneys are reportedly still receiving complaints from hardware makers and other companies about Microsoft business practices, even as the software giant has stepped up its efforts to cooperate with those state and federal authorities overseeing its antitrust consent decree.

In a recent court filing, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and numerous other states said complaints were received from several companies that manufacture and sell a variety of products that work with Windows. The department has been enforcing the consent decree for more than six years. (Source:

Steven Houck, an attorney who represents the state of California, said a particular Windows Vista marketing program run by Microsoft has received the largest number of complaints. At a status conference meeting held in a district court to assess the company's compliance with the decree, Houck said Microsoft has taken actions to change the marketing program since hearing about the complaints, but not all the concerns have been addressed.

Microsoft attorney Charles Rule explained that the marketing program was developed in response to consumer dissatisfaction with Windows Vista. "It's an issue Microsoft was very concerned about, and Microsoft is going to address those issues very directly, and hopefully successfully, in Windows 7," Rule remarked. (Source:

In what Rule says is intended to improve the performance of PCs for consumers, Microsoft developed tests to try and make Windows Vista run more efficiently and asked original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent software vendors to run the tests.

By offering marketing dollars in exchange for tests with successful results, Microsoft attempted to create incentives for the other companies to run them. After receiving complaints from regulators and the other companies that such incentives could be discriminatory, Microsoft altered the program.

According to Rule, Microsoft is continuing to refine the program so it reaches the objective of making PCs more attractive to consumers and marketing dollars won't be tied to the outcome of those tests.

Houck said Microsoft's actions moved things in a positive direction, but independent software vendors and OEMs continue having concerns regarding these programs.

Microsoft has turned in four documents to regulators for review that would enable third-party licenses to create software that is interoperable with their operating systems.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly expressed her concern that Microsoft wouldn't be able to resolve the thousands of technical documentation issues describing communications protocols licensing. Microsoft acknowledged that more issues would arise as it develops documents for Windows 7.

Regulators said it was too early to tell whether that would keep Microsoft from resolving all the issues before the consent decree expires in November. They also noted that an undisclosed complaint regarding cross-platform gaming, filed by a third party wishing to remain confidential, was in fact resolved by Microsoft.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly was assured by Microsoft that its recent layoffs would not be a factor in meeting the objectives of the consent decree. More information on the ongoing antitrust case can be found from the U.S. DOJ. (Source:

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