MS tells EU it's always pushed standards, interoperability

Like it ain't done till Lotus won't run?

MS on Trial Microsoft has responded swiftly to the antitrust action the European Commission launched earlier today, claiming in a statement that it already provides all the information its competitors need in order to have their server software interoperate with Windows. The Commission has served Microsoft with a "statement of objections" claiming that it doesn't, and that it gives unequal access to information, depending on whether companies are friends or foes.

Competition commissioner Mario Monti also claimed that Microsoft did so under the spurious smokescreen of copyright.

Microsoft's readiness to share vital technical information with its competitors will come as news to many of them; not least Sun Microsystems, whose complaint to the Commission started this antitrust process. It will also no doubt surprise Apple, which had to kick and scream before it could get beta code a few years back. Apple's "technical information" problems with QuickTime also figured in the US trial, and RealNetworks' Rob Glaser seemed to have similar problems - ah, how soon they forget...

Microsoft's statement, apparently written by Pinochio, claims the company has a long history of actively developing and implementing support for "hundreds of industry standards across its product line," and that it encourages the use of these standards "to ensure interoperability of systems."

But the pay-off line in the statement is that Microsoft doesn't believe the law requires it "to share its secrets with direct competitors." Sun argued, successfully, to the Commission that Microsoft's monopoly position on the desktop obliged it to provide greater disclosure than it was prepared to make, and Microsoft is - somewhat shortsightedly, given Monti's comments - reverting to the copyright bolthole.

The Commission appears to be leaning to the view that Windows is what would be termed in the US an "essential facility," and should therefore be subject to broad disclosure, while Microsoft is sticking to what it perceives as its right to manage disclosure, and to discriminate between its partners and its competitors. Right or wrong, given what the Commission said this morning Microsoft is displaying cloth ears.

But some things don't change. Although Microsoft came back at the Commission speedily, it's only a provisional response. Microsoft EMEA director of law and corporate affairs John Frank describes the initiation of the action as just a part of a long legal process that Microsoft will win, once it's supplied the Commission with all the information it needs. We're opening a book on the date of the first delay request. ®

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