January 25, 2006 7:07 AM PST

Microsoft offers up source code in EC dispute

Microsoft on Wednesday offered to license some of its Windows Server source code to rivals, as it seeks to avoid a potential fine of up to $2.45 million a day imposed by European antitrust regulators.

But whether the European Commission is willing to accept some of Microsoft's server source code, in lieu of requested server protocols, has yet to be seen. The Commission said although Microsoft has issued a public announcement it will review, the antitrust agency has yet to receive a formal reply to its statement of objections it issued in late December. Microsoft has until Feb. 15 to reply to the statement of objections.

The commission last month warned Microsoft it could face a retroactive fine of up to 2 million euros, or $2.45 million, per day for failing to comply with its earlier March order. That order required the software giant to provide its server protocols to rivals, in order to aid interoperability between the dominant operating system and rivals' products. The order also required Microsoft to offer a version of its operating system without its media player bundled inside it.

Microsoft is appealing the March order and the case is expected to be heard by the European Court of First Instance from April 24 to 28. A decision in the case, however, is expected to take a year or more.

In announcing its source code proposal, Microsoft stated it would license the server code for the technologies covered by the European Commission's decision on March 2004. By way of complying with the commission's statement of objections, the software giant said it is offering the source code as a means to "categorically" address all issues and complaints the Commission has previously raised.

"The Windows source code is the ultimate documentation of Windows Server technologies. With this step our goal is to resolve all questions about the sufficiency of our technical documentation," Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, said in a statement.

In addition to its Windows server source-code proposal, Microsoft also noted it has made a similar offer for its Windows desktop operating system to the Department of Justice. If accepted, the Windows desktop source code would replace the protocols that developers currently have access to under a 2002 agreement with the antitrust agency.

Although Microsoft is offering its desktop source-code for its U.S. anti-trust case, a Department of Justice representative noted the agency has been in discussions with Microsoft to provide its Windows "server" source-code.

But Microsoft has recently encountered difficulty in responding to requests by a Department of Justice panel of technical experts, who are viewing and testing the protocol documentation for the antitrust agency.

Once the European Commission has received Microsoft's reply to its statement of objections, the commission will consult its advisory committees of member-state competition authorities. The EC will then issue a decision on whether to impose its fine of up to $2.45 million a day on Microsoft. The fine would be retroactively applied to Dec. 15 of last year.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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12 comments

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Not much REAL change.
The license requirement still shuts out MS's biggest and most viable competitor, and they KNOW it. This is not a real concession.

Let's just see if the EU has the fortitude to stand up for what's right and does something that truely restores competition to the marketplace.
Posted by waltsjc (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple
That would be great! Maybe next they can get Apple to open up.
Posted by Curtiss W (9 comments )
Link Flag
Fat chance.
If the EU or the DoJ has not started to hand out fines by now they never will. MS is just playing them like a well tuned piano. Both the DoJ and EU are just following the tune cause they have nothing better to do.
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
license will shun open-source
In this way, only companies and will be able to compete with proprietary software. MS tries to close gate on Open-source.
Posted by AbuLafya (86 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Microsoft...
... on Wednesday offered to license some of its Windows Server source code to rivals, as it seeks to avoid a potential fine of up to $2.45 million a day imposed by European antitrust regulators"; does this move includes "Source-Codes" for the IBM's OS/2 Warp Operating Systems that is apparentely preventing IBM from moving OS/2 Warp into the Open-Source Community... a move that Microsoft may be finding very scary!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Microsoft"... (Additionally;
... IBM having previously contributed the Scripting Language to the Rexx Language Association in order to encourage "Innovation Around REXX (on which OS/2 is based) Application Development"; see link:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://rexxla.org/Newsletter/oorexx-pr.html" target="_newWindow">http://rexxla.org/Newsletter/oorexx-pr.html</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let me get this straight...
"The EU Commission orders Microsoft to hand over
clear documentation. They hand over documentation,
but it's incomprehensible, so no one can follow it.
The EU Commission threatens to fine Microsoft $2.4
million every day until it complies, so instead of
complying, Microsoft throws some code on the table
and says, figure it out yourself. No documentation.
For a fee. Have I got that right?"

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20060125103545406" target="_newWindow">http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20060125103545406</a>
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Reply Link Flag
EC: give me code or to die! (sounds like this)
Open-source just a myth!
However, it's a great news for those lazy competitors.
Posted by X-C3PO (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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