EU Had Warned Microsoft that Source Code Release Wouldn't Be Enough

The "Wall Street Journal" has obtained a confidential document sent from European Union (EU) antitrust regulators to Microsoft last month, warning the software giant that a release of its Windows source code would not meet the EU's requirements. Last week, you may recall, Microsoft announced with great fanfare that it would release portions of its Windows source code in a bid to meet its overdue EU antitrust requirements. Microsoft general console called the move "a bold stroke" when it was announced.

The Windows "source code was never asked for nor indeed welcomed," a British computer scientist wrote in a report describing Microsoft's botched attempt to meet European antitrust demands. You may recall that EU antitrust commissioner Neelie Kroes said she was "surprised" that Microsoft made the source code offer last week. Given this revelation, her comments can be put in perspective: She's surprised because the EU specifically told the company that a source code release would not meet its requirements.

Most of the confidential document cited by the Wall Street Journal concerns the EU's efforts to determine whether Microsoft had adhered to the requirements of its antitrust ruling. Microsoft had previously turned over 12,000 pages of technical information describing software protocols that developers could use to interact with Windows Server products. But the EU says that its technical experts spent over 42 hours working on very simple applications that interact with those protocols, and they couldn't get anything to work. The experts called Microsoft's documentation "totally unusable" and complained that it lacks an index, illustrations, or even section headings. Developers at companies such as IBM, Novell, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems also all complained that the documentation was unusable, the report notes.

Microsoft now faces the possibility of fines of $2.4 million a day, retroactive to December 15, 2005, if it cannot meet the EU requirements. Those requirements were made clear in a March 2005 ruling, the EU says.

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