Microsoft Speaks Out on EU Case

In a public statement today, Microsoft insisted it was in full compliance with a European Commission antitrust ruling.

“Microsoft has complied fully with the technical documentation requirements imposed by a 2004 European Commission decision, and the commission has ignored critical evidence in its haste to attack the company’s compliance,” the statement read.

The statement followed a 75-page formal response to the EU’s criticism of its compliance, which the company also filed on Wednesday. A Microsoft spokesman told that commission rules preclude the public release of that document.

In its statement to the press, Microsoft included tidbits from the document, however.

It accused the commission of waiting many months before informing Microsoft that it believed changes were necessary to the technical documents, and then gave Microsoft only a few weeks to make extensive revisions.

Microsoft said the official response said that the EU had denied it due process.

The company also filed with the commission two independent expert reports by software system engineering professors who examined its technical documentation.

“We conclude that the interoperability information as provided by Microsoft meets current industry standards, particularly in such a complex domain,” said a 49-page report authored by five computer science professors in the United Kingdom and Germany.

“We believe that it has provided complete and accurate information, to the extent that this can be reasonably achieved, covering protocols, dependencies and implicit knowledge.”

Microsoft did not provide any information about what the second independent report revealed.

This is the second time in fewer than 30 days that Microsoft has brought its case before the public.

On Jan. 25, the company held a press conference in Brussels to announce that it would provide Windows source code under a reference license, as long as licensees already had a Windows Server license.

But analysts noted that Microsoft hadn’t specified licensing terms.

Joe Wilcox of JupiterResearch said that how code is licensed and for what purpose has been an ongoing point of contention between Microsoft and the EU. (Jupiter Research and are owned by the same corporation.)

Microsoft is fighting a fine of $613 million, along with an order to deliver a version of Windows without Windows Media Player and to license its server protocols to third parties, so that ISV applications could better interoperate with Windows.

But relations between Microsoft and Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes have been strained, as the EU pressed Microsoft for compliance.

On Nov. 10, 2005, the EU gave Microsoft five weeks to comply, or face a fine of approximately $2.45 million. It backed that up with a Statement of Objections to the way Microsoft had responded to the initial sanctions on Dec. 22.

The deadline was later moved to today.

At the Jan. 25 press conference, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith pointed to the success of Apple’s iPod and iTunes music download service as showing there was plenty of room for competition in the marketplace.

After providing 12,000 pages of technical documentation, and offering 500 hours of free technical support to those who were flummoxed by the prospect of wading through that much documentation, Microsoft said it would open its source code to third parties by means of a technical reference license.

“When a software developer gets a reference license, you don’t get the right to actually copy the source code and paste it into your own program,” Smith explained, “but you do get the right to refer to it. You get the right to study it. You get the right to learn from it. It is clearly a very valuable right.”

Smith complained that the trustee who is responsible for overseeing Microsoft’s compliance was unreasonable to have expected to create an implementation for one of the protocols in four days.

“Well, the reaction of our engineers was that even our best engineers couldn’t have accomplished that in only four days,” Smith said. “It took us years to create this technology. It cost us millions of dollars to develop it. It is not something for which any important piece can be replicated by anyone else with just four days of work.”

Microsoft’s appeal of the European Commission’s ruling is expected to be heard at the European Court of First Instance this year.

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