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January 26, 2006

EC surprised, skeptical of Microsoft source offer

Posted by David Hunter at 11:55 AM ET.

The European Commission reaction to Microsoft’s offer to license selected server source code is cautious, to say the least.

Reuters interviews European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes:

“It was a surprise that they decided to disclose the source code,” she said in a telephone interview from Davos.

As for the offer itself, the staff is analyzing it, but she was a bit skeptical:

“Normally speaking, the source code is not the ultimate documentation of anything, which is precisely the reason why programmers are required to provide comprehensive documentation to go along with their source code,” she said.

EC spokesman Jonathan Todd:

Kroes’ spokesman in Brussels said that the Commission had received nothing beyond Microsoft’s news release and a letter to Kroes from Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.

“Until such time as we receive the details in writing, we cannot begin our analysis,” the spokesman, Jonathan Todd, said.

Another interview with Todd:

“It would be premature to conclude access to the source code would resolve the problem of the lack of compliance with our decision.”

“It’s a question of the quality of the information, not the quantity.”

“They could give us half a million pages, but if it’s not the right information to allow competitors to make Microsoft-compatible workgroup server products it doesn’t solve the problem of compliance,” he said.

Microsoft’s offer was dismissed by some of its rivals as a “public relations ploy” that would inundate developers with useless information.

U.K. analyst company Ovum Ltd. also criticized the offer, calling it “superficially appealing.”

“There’s no doubting that the source code for software represents the most accurate and reliable documentation,” Ovum analysts Gary Barnett and David Mitchell wrote in an e-mail to clients. However, “source code is of little practical benefit to those trying to develop interoperable code — there is simply too much of it, and it’s too hard to understand.”

Instead, Microsoft should work with the Commission to figure out what’s wrong with the technical documentation it has provided, the analysts said.

“This would represent a far more suitable and sincere attempt to bring this saga to a close, rather than adding another dimension to an argument that is already confused,” the analysts wrote.

Filed under Antitrust, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal

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One Response to “EC surprised, skeptical of Microsoft source offer”

  1. Microsoft News Tracker » Microsoft and European officials to meet today in Redmond Says:

    [...] You’ll recall that the European Commission has expressed skepticism about last week’s source licensing offer by Microsoft, but wanted to hear the details. Filed under Legal, Governmental Relations, General Business, Antitrust Listen to this article   [Permalink] [...]

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