WASHINGTON (AP) - Citing Microsoft Corp.'s lapses under part of a landmark antitrust settlement, the Justice Department said Friday it wants to extend by two years its oversight of some of the company's business practices until at least November 2009.
Microsoft has already agreed to the lengthier scrutiny by the department and 17 states under a proposal that still must be approved by a U.S. judge. The company has struggled with a key provision in the 2002 antitrust settlement requiring it to disclose to its competitors sensitive details about some of its software.
Government lawyers said they were prepared to extend oversight of Microsoft's business activities through 2012 if they deem it necessary. In court papers filed Friday, they described Microsoft's efforts under parts of the settlement as "disappointing" and "not very encouraging," but they also said Microsoft's failures were neither willful nor systematic.
If the longer term is eventually approved by the judge, the U.S. court battle against Microsoft would stretch to at least 11 years - the age of a middle-schooler - before it concludes.
During that period, Microsoft will have sold at least five generations of its flagship Windows software. At the same time, Google Inc. has emerged as one of Microsoft's biggest rivals, iPods and BlackBerries have revolutionized portable gadgets and technology executives have made and lost billions.
Lawyers said there was little chance U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly would reject the proposed extension because she has expressed concerns in recent years about Microsoft complying with that part of the settlement, which she has described as among its most important requirements.
Microsoft's top lawyer, Brad Smith, said the extension was "an important step" and gives the company time to finish technical documents that describe the inner workings its software.