Microsoft offers protocols to its rivals

In a nod to the European Commission, Microsoft will open up three sets of application protocols for use by its competitors

Microsoft is to allow rivals to use its own protocols for instant messaging, email and collaboration technologies.

The pioneering move takes the company one step closer to complying with restrictions imposed on Microsoft by the European Commission in 2004. One of the key components of the European case was that Microsoft must allow software from other companies to be able to interoperate with Microsoft's software.

A huge €473m (£311m) fine was imposed in 2004, and a further €263m (£173m) was imposed in 2006 for failing to comply with the judgement. Since then, according to a source at the company, Microsoft has prepared a "Europeanised" version of Vista, but it is not on sale yet. Microsoft competitors IBM and Sun continue to argue that Vista runs against EU antitrust law.

According to Information Week, Microsoft spokesman Guy Esnouf said last week that Microsoft has made protocols for instant messaging, email and collaboration technologies available "as part of the process of listening to our customers, partners and competitors. This process will continue and accelerate so we understand more of their interop[erability] requirements and look at ways that we can address any areas where they feel they do not have the access they need today".

Two of the three protocols are available for licensing immediately and the third — which is for Microsoft Live Communications Server — will be available in April, Esnouf said.

The possibilities of Microsoft and the European Commission finding a solution to the case improved greatly in November 2006 when Microsoft filed an 8,500-page submission to the Commission that, according to the company, attempted to settle some of the issues between the Commission, Microsoft and its competitors. Both sides will be hoping that this latest move will satisfy the Commission.

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