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EU Spanks Microsoft on Big Launch Day

Michael Desmond, founding editor of Redmond Developer News and Desmond File blogger, is on vacation. Filling in for him this week is John Waters, contributing editor of RDN.

Few will feel the impact of Microsoft's pledge to document the APIs and communication protocols used by Vista, Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the .NET Framework more directly than third-party developers.

But it's safe to say that Microsoft probably had a second target: antitrust regulators in Europe. That arrow, however, seems to have gone wide of the mark. The European Commission (EC), the executive branch of the European Union (EU), yesterday imposed a record $1.35 billion antitrust fine on the Redmond software maker for failing to live up to the terms of an antitrust settlement associated with a 2004 commission ruling.

"Microsoft was the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy that the Commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement. "I hope that today's decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft's record of noncompliance with the Commission's March 2004 decision."

Adding insult to injury, news of the European regulators' spanking comes on the day Microsoft launched Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008.

Microsoft's new openness may not have won over the EU, but it's still a smart move, said Neil Macehiter, our favorite U.K.-based Microsoft maven. "The publication of the APIs is making sure that the Microsoft products remain relevant," he observed. "Third parties are going to be exploiting those APIs to integrate with, not replace, those products."

Macehiter also noted that the work Microsoft has done with the open source community is an extension of what the company has been doing, either on a case-by-case basis with vendors such as Novell, or with particular protocols/technologies (i.e., the Open Specification Promise). He also pointed out that Microsoft's promise not to sue open source developers who use its technology applies only to non-commercial developers; companies such as Red Hat need to acquire the licenses/patents under the so-called reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms.

It's worth mentioning that in the process of trying to conform to the requirements of the antitrust case, Microsoft has reportedly generated 30,000 pages of interoperability documentation for Windows and Windows Server. As of this writing, that stuff is available to anyone who wants it, free. --John Waters

Posted on 02/28/2008

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