ECIS: Microsoft source code offer tries to duck competition concerns

As indicated by the European Commission on 23 December, Microsoft has to date failed to meet its obligations to provide information essential for developers wishing to develop complementary or competing products which interoperate with Microsoft’s dominant server and client PC operating systems. ECIS has taken note of Microsoft’s offer today to provide limited access to sections of its source code, and has the following initial comments.

Microsoft’s announcement does not make the Microsoft remedy any more effective. ECIS welcomes any steps towards full implementation of the 2004 Decision, but is surprised and concerned by Microsoft’s announcement for several reasons: Microsoft has until today consistently argued that its source code reveals its core IP and that disclosure is entirely unacceptable. Neither the Commission nor the industry want or need Microsoft source code: industry needs proper documentation of specifications and protocols, with appropriate test suites. In fact, use of source code as a substitute would create significant added risks and costs including, for instance, procedures to avoid the so-called “contamination” problem (that is, inadvertent copying by users), the time it would take to understand the code, and timing and identification of continuing code changes. Microsoft has today made no move to modify the license terms and conditions, which are entirely unworkable. Moreover, source code disclosure, without open source compatible license terms, does not solve the concerns of the open source community, which Microsoft specifically excludes.

ECIS will analyse today’s announcement to determine whether or not we believe this is a step in making available essential information on licensing terms and conditions acceptable to major industry players. Further details are needed before the industry can assess whether this announcement will have any meaningful impact.