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MS may be forced to give away Explorer source code

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MS on Trial The government intends to ask that Microsoft be forced to license the source code to Internet Explorer as part of its proposed remedies package, according to a story in today's Wall Street Journal. Microsoft would be forced to offer royalty-free licences on demand, allowing rivals to make their own modifications and improvements, and effectively crowbarring open Windows to the outside world. The upside for Microsoft here is that it seems that the DoJ and the states have just about reached a consensus that the company shouldn't be broken up, but dishing out IE to all and sundry is just going to be one part of a wide range of proposed measures, and in total these are likely to be significantly harsher than the offers the government made in the settlement talks. As the integration of Internet Explorer into Windows, and Microsoft's motives for doing so, were central to the court case there's a certain balance to the notion of making Microsoft give away the source as well as the product. It also has the virtue of nodding in the direction of an open source solution without getting too complex, and without doing it for the whole of Windows. Open sourcing Windows has been suggested in the past as a solution to the Microsoft "problem," but effectively relieving Microsoft of rights to its key product is probably several steps further than the courts will be prepared to go. Forced licensing of IE, on the other hand, could have the effect of drawing a line beyond which Microsoft couldn't go. It would have to go along with other restrictions on Microsoft's ability to integrate products, and on the kinds of deals it could do with PC OEMs, but it looks as if it might be workable. Of course there's a problem for Microsoft here, because the company insists that IE is an integral part of Windows (although it offered to split them during the talks). So how do you define the code to be licensed? Tricky. ® Complete Register Trial coverage

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