EU: Questions Remain on Microsoft Antitrust Compliance

Today, European Union (EU) antitrust commissioner Neelie Kroes said that she still has not received any official word from the company about its plan to provide technical information about the Windows OS code so that competitors can develop products that are compatible with the OS. Kroes also said that Microsoft won't be allowed to charge competitors for technical information unless the software giant can prove the information is innovative. That last bit is interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the impossibility of defining innovative technology.


"If \[there is\] no such innovation \[in the technology Microsoft describes in the technical information the company must supply to competitors\], no remuneration can be charged by Microsoft," Kroes said. Noting that the company has until February 15 to reply to a set of charges the EU filed against Microsoft in December 2005, Kroes said that she has yet to receive a reply. Though Microsoft publicly announced plans to provide access to the Windows source code last week, Kroes said she found out about those plans via a Microsoft press release.


Yesterday, Microsoft said that it would meet with EU regulators at its Redmond, Washington, campus to work out the remaining concerns in its antitrust compliance. In a bid to meet the antitrust requirements, Microsoft said it would present a plan to regulators to offer competitors access to the Windows source code.


EU officials expressed doubts about this plan, both publicly and privately. "If Microsoft wants to offer source code, that is completely up to Microsoft," an EU spokesperson said. "What counts is that it \[Microsoft\] comply with the March, 2004 \[antitrust\] decision. It \[EU\] is by no means sure that divulging the source code could or would be relevant. If they \[Microsoft\] think it is, then they must explain why."

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