Industry Leaders Question Microsofts Source Code Move

The company's decision to placate the EC by licensing Windows Server source code fails to impress competitors, while some analysts say it goes too far.

Microsofts decision to license all the Windows Server source code that applies to the antitrust requirements set out in the European Commission judgment against it has received a lukewarm response at best from competitors and trade groups.

"With todays announcement, Microsoft has supplemented the existing resources with a new license for all of the Windows Server source code that implements all of the communications protocols covered by the 2004 decision," Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"Today we are putting our most valuable intellectual property on the table so we can put technical compliance issues to rest and move forward with a serious discussion about the substance of this case," Smith said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifMicrosoft asks the United States to intervene in its struggle with the EU. Click here to read more.

"The Windows source code is the ultimate documentation of Windows Server technologies. With this step our goal is to resolve all questions about the sufficiency of our technical documentation," he said.

A reference license to the Windows Server source code will be made available and will provide software developers with "the most precise and authoritative description possible of the Windows protocol technologies. With it, software developers will be entitled to view the Windows source code in order to better understand how to develop products that interoperate with Windows, but not to copy Microsofts source code," Smith said.

Microsoft will also provide source code for the Windows desktop operating system to better enable licensees under its U.S. settlement to build interoperable products, he said.

Microsoft has an existing protocol licensing program that was established in the United States pursuant to a consent decree there, covering certain protocols in the Windows desktop operating system.

"More than 20 companies have taken licenses to Microsofts protocols under that program, and many are shipping products incorporating such protocols.

"To continue to foster consistency between both licensing programs, Microsoft has decided to make available for the desktop protocols the same reference license for source code it is offering for server protocols, and the company will provide competition authorities in the United States with information so they can consider the matter," Smith said.

He said Microsoft decided to do this so as to "address categorically all of the issues raised by the Commissions Dec. 22, 2005, Statement of Objections. That document asserted that Microsofts prior technical documentation provided insufficient information to enable licensees to implement successfully certain Windows Server communications protocols," Smith said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about how the European Commission rapped Microsoft over the knuckles for failing to comply with its antitrust order.

Competitors, like Novell, were initially unimpressed, and suspicious of the move. Novell spokesperson Bruce Lowry told eWEEK on Wednesday that the company needed to see the details on the license terms and the code covered by it before it could "assess whether this will help."

The European Commission said in a statement that it would carefully study Microsofts announcement licensing some of its source code, but added that it still expected to receive, by Feb. 15, Microsofts reply to its December Statement of Objections.

Next Page: Industry reaction to the licensing move.