Microsofts antitrust contest with the European Union may seem far off to many in the United States, but the outcome promises to have an impact on IT systems worldwide. Recently, Microsoft has been implementing its traditional never-yield-an-inch tactics in this proceeding.
We respect Microsofts desire to stand up for its rights, but we think Microsoft ought to weigh the consequences of a victory strategy at all costs—especially when the casualties are likely to be its customers.
To recap: Microsoft is appealing the March 2004 antitrust judgment passed by the European Commission, the executive body of the EU.
Having been ordered to pay a $613 million fine and publish interfaces to its systems to allow competitors to interoperate, Microsoft has recently gone on the offensive against the EC, asking the body to open the hearings on whether Microsoft should be fined for server protocol intransigence, a request the EC denied.
Microsoft also is complaining that the proceedings impartial computer scientist trustee has given the companys commercial foes preferential access to information.
While there may be room for improvement in the EC antitrust procedures, it seems clear that Microsoft hasnt lived up to the ECs demand that the company allow for rivals to interoperate with its server protocols. Microsoft claims it has satisfied the ECs requirements for offering up documentation for the companys protocols—such as those for file sharing, print and authentication—pointing out that it delivered copious documentation and created a program through which rivals could view Windows source code, which the company billed as the "ultimate documentation."
However, the EC said the documentation that Microsoft provided has been deemed "incomplete, inaccurate and unusable." Source code does not embody the ultimate documentation of a set of protocols, as Microsoft claims, and the licensing terms under which Microsoft has offered access to the code could leave open-source developers vulnerable to a legal attack.
Microsoft has responded that its efforts werent crafted to take open-source groups into account. Since open-source software is in many areas the most vital competition for Microsoft, no good faith attempt at improving interoperability could exclude these groups.
Microsoft recognizes the value of interoperability. With the needs of enterprise customers in mind, the company entered a landmark interoperability agreement with archrival Sun Microsystems nearly two years ago. By enabling Microsoft products to play in multivendor environments, interoperability also helps Microsoft by broadening the market for its products.
In the best interest of enterprise IT, the industry and itself, we call on Microsoft to end its foot-dragging and approach the ECs interoperability demands in good faith.
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