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'Embrace and Extend' could meet a sticky end

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Mobile application security vulnerability report

MS on Trial The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has conceded Microsoft another 60 days to comply with its proposed behavioural remedies. The remedies alone are enough to oblige Microsoft to sell multiple versions of each Windows OS, sans "middleware".

Since the DoJ handily defines middleware to encompass not only the browser and streaming media applications, but anything a competitor might call middleware, that's likely to result in some drastic slash and burn to the Windows product family. Microsoft must resell the stripped-down Windows at a lower cost, too.

The DoJ's twin-track approach sees these remedies coming into effect regardless of Microsoft's appeals against the structural remedy. The DoJ says in a supporting memo that the extension should be enough "to permit orderly resolution of any questions that might arise regarding stays pending appeal".

In other words, it's giving itself enough time to bat back the inevitable appeals on the procedural track. But if as widely expected, a Final Judgement is entered next week, the axe falls on whatever remedies are left intact by the beginning of September.

And slicing and dicing each Windows OS isn't the only prospect that is concentrating minds in Redmond. Microsoft defence lawyer John Warden told Bloomberg yesterday that the fair play proposal giving third parties access to the code was "confiscatory".

Is it? Let's have a look. The Remedy requires Microsoft to "create a secure facility where qualified representatives of OEMs, ISVs, and IHVs shall be permitted to study, interrogate and interact with relevant and necessary portions of the source code and any related documentation of Microsoft Platform Software for the sole purpose of enabling their products to interoperate effectively with Microsoft Platform Software."

Now to us, "secure facility" hardly suggests that Microsoft is going to be obliged to print the source code in full pages advertisements in the Wall Street Journal, or include it in cereal packets. Open source, this ain't. But it's an immeasurable boost to third party software vendors and standards bodies who demand the right to interoperability, and should make a policy of embrace and extend exceedingly difficult.

Microsoft's spin paramedics continue to ply to the "business as usual" theme, suggesting that there'll be no practical consequences for years. And alas, fresh from falling for the Great Potato Hoax, the BBC has bought it, opining that "there could be years of appeals before the final judgement takes effect".

We beg to differ, Lord Copper. ®

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