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Microsoft is to open up the source code behind its server communication protocols, in an attempt to get the European Commission off its back.

The announcement covers the source code behind the communication protocols for Windows Workgroup Server and Windows Desktop.

Microsoft already offers 12,000 pages of technical documents and 500 hours of free technical support to anyone applying for a license. Companies making software which interacts with Microsoft servers use those licences to make their products work properly with Microsoft ones. Such license-holders will now also get to look at the source code, but will not have the right to publish the code or include it in their own products.

In December the commission said it was unhappy with the documentation Microsoft had provided. It published a statement of objections expressing its view that Microsoft was not doing enough to comply with the anti-trust agreement.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in a conference call: "The commission asked for specifications. If you want to understand the protocols the source code is even better. This is the ultimate documentation.

"This is a substantial step and a significant change, but it doesn't lay to rest everything over compliance - the EC is still looking at the price we charge for this."

There will be no additional charge for access to the code.

Microsoft has previously opened up source code to a restricted list of customers and governments, but never to a direct competitor.

Smith noted that the case has now taken eight years.

Microsoft is back in court with the commission between April 24 and 28.®

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