Microsoft reveals changes in EU agreement

Microsoft has given details of concessions it made to the European Commission last week in an ongoing dispute over an antitrust case settlement.

Microsoft has revealed details of the concessions it offered last week to the European Commission in negotiations over how it will comply with the terms of an antitrust case settlement.

As part of that settlement, the Commission had ordered Microsoft to change its anticompetitive behavior and reveal details of the protocols used by its workgroup server products to communicate with PCs running its Windows operating system. Microsoft's early proposals to comply with this order did not go far enough to satisfy the Commission, which regulates competition in the EU.

Now Microsoft has offered to license the protocols to software developers on the same basis worldwide, rather than restricting the licenses to European countries.

The company has proposed dividing up the protocols into different packages that can be licensed separately, and devised a number of different royalty schemes for them.

Microsoft had offered to make some of the information available royalty-free, the Commission said in a statement.

Microsoft had tried to address the question of how open-source software developers could marry their code with Microsoft's proprietary information by suggesting that code for the protocols be put into a separate interoperability layer distributed under a different license, forming a bridge between open-source applications and Microsoft's closed-source code, a spokesperson said.

However, the company still would not agree to license the protocols for use in open-source products.

Microsoft could not make that concession because "if the information goes to the public domain, then there's no need for anyone to come to Microsoft for a license", a spokesperson said.

The company and the Commission had agreed to let the European Court of First Instance settle that point as part of Microsoft's appeal against the Commission's ruling in the antitrust case, they said.

If the Commission does not consider Microsoft's concessions as sufficient to comply with its demands, the company faces a fine of up to $US5 million a day.

The Commission is discussing the concessions with other players in the software industry in a process known as market testing. Allowing a couple of weeks for that process, and time for the Commission to evaluate the results, it will be at least a month before the Commission decides whether it accepts the proposals, according to Commission spokesman, Luc de Hert.

In addition to licensing terms for the communications protocols, the Commission also asked Microsoft to produce a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. The Commission is thought to be satisfied with the company's plans for that product, to be called Windows XP N.

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Peter Sayer

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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