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EC to Microsoft: not so fast

Code licensing may not be enough

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Microsoft may not be off the hook with the European Commission (EC), despite this week's sweeping promise to license Windows Server communications source code.

An EC spokesperson has reportedly called it "premature" to assume that access alone to the code would solve the problem of Microsoft's failure to comply.

Microsoft had hyped its licensing offer, by claiming the company is "going far beyond European Commission's March 2004 decision and its legal obligations to provide technical specifications".

The Commission in March 2004 had ruled that Microsoft had abused its dominant market position on the desktop to harm the competition in low-end servers and media players.

"The company hopes to dodge the EC's threatened $2.4m-a-day fine for non-compliance with the EC's ruling that it open up Windows. Microsoft's offer would allow software developers to view, but not alter, the Windows source code.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the EC seems to be aware of the difficulties with a similar Microsoft program in the US - the Microsoft Communications Protocols Program (MCPP) - covering the release of Windows communications protocols.

MCPP was created by Microsoft in August 2002 to demonstrate "good will" and help minimize the impact of the, then, pending anti-trust settlement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and prosecuting states.

It has been consistently criticized and "substantially" revised during its four-year life, with Microsoft compelled to reduce the price it charged ISVs to license Windows protocols, to eliminate nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) with ISVs, and to slash the amount of paperwork associated with licensing.

MCPP came in for its latest criticism this week, ahead of the company's offer to the EC, with the DoJ accusing Microsoft of having "fallen significantly behind" in submitting technical documentation to officials overseeing its program.

In a new twist, Microsoft said it would offer the DoJ the same terms for the MCPP for licensing of Windows protocols as it has proposed in Europe on sever protocols to "foster consistency between both licensing programs." ®

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