A US judge has criticised Microsoft for its delay in submitting technical documentation. The district court judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has been monitoring the company's anti-trust settlement with the US government and was expecting two technical documentation projects to be completed in early 2006.

Microsoft has now said the projects won't be completed until October 2006 - or even later - much to the annoyance of Kollar-Kotelly. "If it's an issue of resources, then put them in," the judge told Microsoft lawyers during an anti-trust compliance hearing. "Do what it takes to get it done."

The two projects were intended to help Microsoft comply with the judge's order to share its proprietary communications protocols, part of the settlement Kollar-Kotelly approved in late 2002. The judge had ordered Microsoft to license its communication protocols to other IT vendors as part of the November 2002 anti-trust settlement between the company and the US government.

Microsoft and the plaintiffs announced in February two projects intended to improve the technical documentation, including a protocol analyser project called Troika. Under Troika, Microsoft agreed to create a series of network monitor protocol parsers to be used to compare information in the documentation against network traffic involving the communication protocols.

The technical documentation is important because it helps Microsoft competitors build competing software, said Stephen Houck, a lawyer for the California group of state plaintiffs in the case. "This is the piece of the judgment that has the most potential to have an impact on the marketplace," he said.

The plaintiffs just learned of project delays in the weeks leading up to the latest compliance hearing, Houck added. "Essentially, Microsoft hasn't done what it promised to do," he said. "Only in the walk up the courthouse steps have we learned there were tremendous problems with the project."

Rule disagreed, saying Microsoft had communicated difficulties with the project earlier to a court-authorised technical committee working with the company on the technical documentation. He also took issue with Houck's complaint that Microsoft had completed "nothing" related to the Troika project, saying the company has given close to 9,600 pages of technical documentation to protocol licensees.

"Microsoft does remain fully committed to full compliance," he said. "We at Microsoft have always been confident we have been compliant with the decision."

The delay in Troika was necessary because Microsoft underestimated the scope of the project, he said. "We undertook a project that had never been done before, so we had engineers who were essentially giving their best estimate of what would be required and how long it would take," Rule said.

Responding to Kollar-Kotelly's call for more resources to be put in Troika, Rule said company has committed about 30 employees to the project and is looking for more help.

Kollar-Kotelly urged Microsoft and the plaintiffs to come up with a solution involving Troika, and she scheduled a special hearing for 30 November to monitor the project's progress. "The volume [of documentation] may be nice, but the completeness and accuracy is what's important," she said. "I want this to be a priority."