WASHINGTON – Only five of the 47 public comments on the Microsoft antitrust case released Friday by the Justice Department are in support of the government's settlement with the software company.
"The computer industry, especially the software industry, used to be a very vibrant, exciting space with a large number of competing technologies and solutions," wrote Mark Alexander of Scarsdale, N.Y. "The fact that Microsoft believes that to compete it needs to 'cut off the air supply' of potential competitors is a method that should be eliminated."
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who is scheduled to hold a trial next month to decide whether to approve the settlement, said she plans to read the comments before deciding.
The Justice Department, complying with Kollar-Kotelly's request, only released the comments it described as "major" — those with long, detailed arguments — on its Web site.
The department has said it received about 30,000 comments, mostly via e-mail. The rest of the letters will be published on the Internet and on CD-ROMs.
After reviewing all the comments, Justice had said they were 2-to-1 against the settlement. Among the messages released Friday, the ratio was even higher.
"Its results will be only a mild, temporary modification to Microsoft's well-documented behavior, with no lasting or significant effect on competition," wrote technology consultant Jonathan Gifford of New York.
Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona declined to comment, saying the department would give its response to the court.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said the comments are not about "keeping score."
"The settlement is in the interest of the public, and we look forward to the court's review of it," Desler said.
The settlement, reached last year, would prevent Microsoft from retaliating against partners for using non-Microsoft products; require the company to disclose some of its software blueprints so software developers can make compatible products; and make it easier for consumers to remove extra Windows features.
Companies, interest groups, academics, current and former senators and the public at large are represented in the published comments.
"It creates incentives for Microsoft to engage in behavior that has the potential to create significant harm for consumers," wrote Rebecca Henderson of the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Several settlement opponents argued that Microsoft should be broken in two, an option that was dropped by the Bush administration.
The five comments in favor of the settlement were from New York University economist Nicholas Economides; the Washington Legal Foundation; Joseph L. Bast of the libertarian Heartland Institute; and the Association for Competitive Technology and the Computing Technology Industry Association, two pro-Microsoft groups.
Several Microsoft rivals sounded off against the settlement, including AOL Time Warner, Sun Microsystems, Sony, RealNetworks and SBC Communications.
Advocates of the "open source" software movement, who prefer open collaboration and free software, sent several of the comments released Friday. Consumer activists like the Consumer Federation of America and Ralph Nader also wrote to criticize the settlement.