Microsoft's decision to open up its Windows server source code
sparked a lot of reaction from folks following the
Microsoft-European Union antitrust case.
But analysts and U.S. coalitions dedicated to government
regulation on technology disagree as to how much Microsoft is really
During a press conference from Brussels today, top Microsoft
lawyer Brad Smith said the software giant will offer developers the
right to view Windows server so long as they already have a Windows
server license under the European Commission's plan.
Advocates for U.S. pro-competition groups painted a bleak picture
upon hearing the news.
Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive
Technology, said Microsoft is giving away too much and could set
"dangerous precedents" for intellectual property protections that
affect all companies doing business in Europe.
Representatives from the Americans for Technology Leadership
(ATL) said the EC is "holding Microsoft hostage."
"By constantly pressuring the company to go further in disclosing
their intellectual property by threatening larger fines and more
legal action, the Commission has essentially held the company
hostage and put it in a position where it must surrender more of its
valuable intellectual property before a European Court has reviewed
the merits of the Commission's original claims on appeal," the group
But Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff said it's clear
that Microsoft is not giving away all of the source code for Windows
Instead, it is providing source code under a reference license to
help programmers solve problems they encounter while using
Microsoft's current documentation to build Windows-compatible
"They are licensing a specific subset related to the protocols
the EU demanded more documentation on," Rosoff said in an interview
Rosoff said that efforts to meet the EU's request for
documentation that will allow rivals to build non-Microsoft products
that work with Windows are taking longer than Microsoft anticipated.
In the meantime, and before the February 15 deadline the EU posed
for responding to requests for more information, the company decided
to license source code under a reference license.
Microsoft has done this for years for enterprise customers and
academics, and has documented Windows communications protocols it
was ordered to share with competitors as a condition of its 2001 US
antitrust settlement with the Department of Justice.
In other words, it's business as usual. A step along the long
path to meeting the demands of the EU.
Jupiter Research* analyst Joe Wilcox said in an interview that
Microsoft spurred more questions than it offered answers to with
He noted that Microsoft didn't say how much source code would be
licensed, but that he expects Microsoft isn't giving up any crown
He also said Microsoft didn't specify licensing terms, noting
that how code is licensed and for what purpose has been an ongoing
point of contention between Microsoft and the EU.
"The EU wants licensed code to be available for use in
open-source and free software, a request Microsoft has resisted,"
Wilcox said. "I would be shocked if that position has significantly
He also wondered if there is a time limit on the licensing.
EU courts gave Microsoft the option to pull the disputed protocol
licensing program should Microsoft win on appeal. Microsoft needs to
address whether the source code licensing would continue, even if
the company prevails on appeal, he said.
Microsoft's actions struck another curious note with Wilcox.
Microsoft is already licensing protocols to the U.S. government,
but US officials have expressed dissatisfaction with the program's
progress, as recently as this week.
"How can Microsoft reasonably promise to do more in Europe when
it presumably isn't doing enough in the US?" Wilcox said.