European antitrust regulators are kicking off two new Microsoft antitrust investigations, one of which involves products and technologies for which Microsoft allegedly is withholding interoperability information, including its .Net framework, Office Open XML (OOXML) document format and various server products.
According to the European Commission's statement on the new Microsoft probes, issued January 14:
"In the complaint by ECIS (European Committee for Interoperable Systems), Microsoft is alleged to have illegally refused to disclose interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so called .NET Framework. The Commission's examination will therefore focus on all these areas, including the question whether Microsoft's new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors' products."
The European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), -- not the European Council for International Schools (oops. my mistake) -- "is an international non-profit association founded in 1989 that endeavours to promote a favourable environment for interoperable ICT solutions," according to its charter. Members of ECIS include IBM, Nokia Sun Microsystems, RealNetworks and Oracle.
The European Commission also has begun officially its antitrust investigation of a complaint levied by Opera Software in mid-December over Microsoft's tying of Internet Explorer to Windows. Last year, ECIS backed Opera's antitrust complaint against the Redmondians.
In its latest statement, the Commission also mentioned complaints it has received about Microsoft allegedly tying Windows Live and desktop search to Windows. Google is known to have brought Microsoft's desktop-search integration to the attention of the EC.
It seemed as though Microsoft's agreement to change the behavior of Windows Vista's desktop search to make it more open to Microsoft's competitors -- a change Microsoft is instigating with Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 due later this quarter -- answered the search tying complaints. But maybe not....
Microsoft has been working with a number of third-party developers to build translators that make OOXML and the rival Open Document Format (ODF) interoperable. Again, it looks like those efforts might be too little, too late to appease the ECIS and other critics....
At the end of December, after years of foot-dragging, Microsoft finally complied with terms required under a previous EC antitrust investigation which required the Redmond software company to share in a fair and open way Windows networking protocol information to enable third-party developers to make their wares interoperable with Windows Server.
There's no official statement from Microsoft yet about the new probe.
Microsoft's official statement on the new antitrust probes, courtesy of a corporate spokesman:
"We will cooperate fully with the Commission's investigation and provide any and all information necessary. We are committed to ensuring that Microsoft is in full compliance with European law and our obligations as established by the European Court of First Instance in its September 2007 ruling."
So far, there also are no further details on exactly what kind of information regarding .Net, OOXML and the unspecified Microsoft server products the ECIS is seeking.