Microsoft Spins Legal Defeat into PR Fool's Gold

If you didn't know what was really behind Microsoft's open standards and source promises, it might sound like Microsoft was making real changes.

You've got to give Microsoft credit for gall. They take a crunching defeat at the hands of the European Union court system for trying to conceal information and now that the court has forced them to reveal that same information, Microsoft is all about increasing "the openness of its products and drive greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for developers, partners, customers and competitors."

Urgh. Excuse me. I feel a little ill.

One publication's headline, Microsoft makes boldest move yet embracing open source, shows that you really can fool some of the people some of the time. Listen, Microsoft is doing nothing but trying to turn a complete and total defeat into a PR victory.

All those things Microsoft promises it will do-opening up the APIs for its major programs, documenting how Microsoft supports industry standards and extensions, working on document interoperability-they're all required by the EU decision. In fact, according to the EU, Microsoft didn't go far enough in its announcement.

According to the European Anti-Trust Commission's response to Microsoft's news, Microsoft's "announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past. The Commission would welcome any move towards genuine interoperability. Nonetheless, the Commission notes that today's announcement follows at least four similar statements by Microsoft in the past on the importance of interoperability."

Too bad Microsoft hasn't lived up to its promises or its legal obligations. The EU Anti-Trust Commission statement goes on: "In January 2008, the Commission initiated two formal antitrust investigations against Microsoft-one relating to interoperability, one relating to tying of separate software products ... Today's announcement by Microsoft does not address the tying allegations."

And what are those allegations? The same ones Microsoft claims it's doing so much better with now.

"One of these investigations focuses on the alleged illegal refusal by Microsoft to disclose sufficient interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so-called .NET Framework and on the question of whether Microsoft's new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors' products."

The EU statement went on: "The second investigation concerns allegations of tying of separate software products, including Internet Explorer, to the Windows PC operating system."

Ah yes, here we have Microsoft yet again spinning like crazy. The EU is requiring the company to show that it is now obeying the European court, so now Microsoft is saying, 'Yes, see we're proud of doing these things (which, oh by the way, you're requiring us to do anyway).'