Microsoft's antitrust concessions are 'pointless'

Microsoft's antitrust concessions are 'pointless'

Summary: The information that Microsoft conceded to offer royalty free in its server interoperability licence is already publicly available, according to a company evaluating the agreement

TOPICS: Government UK

A firm involved in the market testing of Microsoft's server interoperability licence on Wednesday criticised the royalty-free concessions the software giant made in its final offer to the EU.

Microsoft filed its final attempt to comply with last year's anti-trust ruling at the end of May. The European Commission (EC) said a week later that Microsoft had agreed to provide some of the interoperability information royalty-free as it is "not the result of innovation".

But a German open source consultancy that has been involved in the EC's market test of Microsoft's final antitrust offering claims that these royalty-free concessions are pointless as the information is already available on the Internet, is incomplete and is in some cases incorrect.

Volker Lendecke, a consultant at SerNet, which offers services around the open source file and print server software Samba, claimed that the free information is "completely pointless". "It's stuff that you can find out using Google anyway," he said.

Lendecke added that as well as being publicly available, the information is insufficient to write an implementation of a workgroup server that is even partially interoperable with Microsoft software. "The information [provided in the royalty-free licence] available is incomplete, but Windows clients expect everything to be around for things to work."

For example, the royalty-free licence provides basic information on how a Microsoft server opens a file. But information on how to manage file privileges is not included under the royalty-free licence, which means that developers cannot write code that can open a file held on a Windows file server, unless they sign up to the royalty-bearing licence that contains information on file privilege protocols, said Lendecke.

Some of the information included under the royalty-free licence is incorrect, he said. "They have included some things that they don't implement," said Lendecke. For example, although the royalty-free licence provides some information on CIFS — a standard protocol for remote file access — Microsoft's server implementation is not fully CIFS compatible.

This is a known problem among the Samba team. For example, Samba claim that Microsoft has been granted patents around CIFS, but has not used these particular parts of the CIFS in their implementation.

"These patents cover an obsolete section of the CIFS/SMB protocol that Microsoft themselves have abandoned in their own products long ago. Microsoft abandoned these "raw" protocol operations in CIFS," states the Samba Web site.

Server interoperability information provided by Microsoft under royalty-bearing licences may contain useful information, but Samba is unable to sign up to these licences as it is a per-user fee.

"If the information that has a fee attached, you have to track the number of users. With free software you don't know how many users you have. Even if we would be willing to pay for a licence, we can't accept a per-seat licence," said Lendecke.

Carlo Piana, a partner at Milan law firm Tamos Piana & Partners, which represents the Free Software Foundation Europe and was also involved in the market test, agreed that this is a problem. "We could pay for something, but it should be a lump sum. It cannot be based on proprietary software model [where companies pay a per-user licence fee] as this is the opposite of our business model," said Piana.

Open source developers are also faced with the problem that they cannot publish the source code of products that have been written using Microsoft's licensed information.

The EC criticised Microsoft's original server interoperability licence for charging unjustifiably high royalty fees. These fees included a maximum royalty of $1,900 (£1,075) for users wishing to license Microsoft's file and print protocols. It charged extra for those wishing to license user and group administration protocols.

Lendecke said that the final interoperability licence charges slightly less, but is still not significantly cheaper — charging a maximum of $950 per server to license all of Microsoft's intellectual property.

A Microsoft spokesperson was unable to comment on the details of the Microsoft server interoperability licence. "The commission is currently market testing Microsoft's proposals and we'll await the outcome of this process," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Piana from law firm Tamos Piana & Partners said the EC's deadline for the market testing was 1 July and he is expecting the results from the EC's analysis "any day". The EC was unable to comment in time for this article.

Topic: Government UK

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  • Please tell me why Microsoft should give these parasites anything for free?
    If they were so innovative, how come all of their software is a clone of Microsoft's. Where is their innovative bent?
    Furthermore, just because their software if (supposedly) free, does Microsoft, which pours $6 billion US into R&D have to give them anything.
    Com'mon, guys! Create something new. License it to Microsoft and man+dog and watch the royalties roll in.
    You are waiting for a judge to fight a business, not a legal, but a business, battle for you.
    To listen to the shill/mouthpiece talk about 'pointless'. Guy, is all your work pro bono? Get a real job! This is business, not socialism.
    Grow up!
  • ...
    If they were so innovative, how come all of their software is a clone of Microsoft's.

    LOL .. every piece of ms-ware is a rip off of a similar product.
    (word : wordperfect, excel : lotus, .net : java, visual studio : turboC++, mswindos : (DR tos, workbench, macos, riscos, x-windows))
  • Com'on,

    What MS is doing is a joke. They have been running on empty for a while now. Can't wait until the tank is finally dry! Then we can move on to the next era in computing ;-)
  • To Rod S,

    You are criticising the only group of people who are standing up to fight for open standards and competition. It should be a matter of serious concern to everyone that such a monoply that Microsoft continually seeks is neither in our interests and nor should it be permitted.

    The long term consequences of an absolute monopolist in the IT aspects of our society are too grim to contemplate.

    It is clear to reasonable people that such important technologies should be subject to open and common standards so that genuine competition, choice and inovation can flourish.

    Seems to me that you support the philosophy of the bully. There is no other industry where such abuse occurs.
  • Stalling tactics are contempt of court and should be treated so. MS benefits so much from delay, that additional fines should be levied. Too bad it was not broken up into three smaller companies during DOJ vs MS. The harm from these delays trickles down rather quickly to most companies using computers.
  • 1) Where is is written that open source IS the best way. Since you cannot compete, or invent, or innovate, why don't you just STEAL ideas from prople who spent money developing their stuff and call it open source.
    Ans please, don't tell me about improvements in open source software vs Microsoft's; it is to be expected.
    2) When you are given a legal time allotment, taking advantage of it is NOT contempt of court. It ir prudent.
  • Rod S. is most probably a MCSE, who is scared beyond humanity about the (possible) paradigm shift that FOSS represents.

    If you are dependant on selling and maintaining the malware produced in Redmond, so you can easily fill your coffers without learning too much, FOSS must be blood curdling....
  • You cannot own an idea, so it is wrong to talk about someone "stealing" MicroSoft's ideas.
  • You can own an idea. You can own the first implementation of an idea. That is what a patent is!
    I am not an MCSE, never been!
  • It stands to reason that the EU has no clue yet as to how to make a convicted monopolist behave according to EU laws.

    As such I would hope that the EU will act accordingly.

    What's at stake is how the EU would like the IT markets to operate. The Lisbon act comes to mind. Dare the EU hope that the Lisbon act will become reallity while a convincted monopolist is still on the loose and playing the game by its own rules? I hope the EU is not that stupid.

    Given that this has been going on for years now the next, quick, action in my mind would be a ruling that will make perfectly clear that either things are done as intented of very rigerous punishment will follow swiftly.

    It's either put up or shut up. Both ways. If you catch my drift. Three strikes and you're out is the kind of attitude I'm looking for. If you're not willing to play the game by the rules then by all means leave. Plenty of companies out there willing and able to fill up the gap quicker then you can say: Lisbon act.
  • Agree EU should get out of the way of business trying to make money.

    If the Linux geeks actually had anything worthwhile they would actually be able to sell it and make some money

    And as for standards , the only standrd that counts is who sells the most.

    If Microsoft did fall from its no 1 spot in the market it would only be replaced by some other large corperation. Apple could have done the job but they showed the true nature of greed (and bad judgement) by not allowing their software on 3rd party hardware
  • No Jon, the game needs to be played by certain rules and those that want to play by their own rules should be excluded from the game. It's as simple as that.

    In case you haven't noticed it. The price for software is abnormally high for many, many years now. That's because the games are fixed and only a select few are in on the deal. The rest are left the crumbles to make it appear that everything is need and dandy.

    Therefor it's strange to determine the winner by looking at who makes the most profit. When the games are fixed it's pretty obvious who will make the most profit, isn't it?

    But perhaps you're the kind of guy that finds no fault in a company that does whatever to come out on top just as long as they make the most profit. Well, if that's your attitude then surely you wouldn't mind someone else strong arming that company because hey, strong arming is allowed, isn't it?

    So it boils down to two thing. Either you don't mind the strong arming and the fixing of games in which case you can't object if someone else uses the same tactics. Or you want everyone to play by the same rules in which case you can't object if everyone is forced to play by the same rules.
  • Who says the cost of software is high?, generally pirates would probably pirate Word if it cost a quid. What exactly is high cost?. Is a city broker paying
  • @ All advocates of ms and other monopolists:

    Do you really think it will be beneficial to innovation, civilisation & democracy, if _one_ player corners the entire world-(IT-) market ?
    Resulting in PCs (with build in "Fritz"-chips or whatever the d*mn things are being called) that doesn't even allow to run any other softwares than "approved" by the "great sacred monopolist ms" and, of course, being payed for an unpropotional large sum of _your_ hard cash, over and over and over again due to the "very userfriendly" ms-licences...
    Ever heard of: " Ein Land, ein Volk, ein Fuehrer !" - in this context it would be: " Ein PC, ein Welt, ein ms..."
    Now don't so screaming: "Godwins Law" because the stranglehold of ms is - unlike the nazis - not limited to just _some_ nations, it is choking to death innovation, freedom of speech and information-exchange as well as honest, open competition worldwide.
    Did you know most money is shifted around the world electronically nowadays ? Using... ms-softwares !
    Do you really approve ms is in fact effectively controlling pretty much every (large) financial transaction being made anywhere in the world ?
    Did you know many people died (e.g. during surgery) in hospitals because the ms-"medical" software failed ? Do you really care one bit ?
    As you buch state it, that's all justifiable, respectable and will be a great advantage to us all. _N_O_T_ !!
    Anyone advocating _that_ doen't understand a bit of IT - or anything else concerning honest business, or even how to be decent human beings...
    The fact ms is the most powerful player in IT is because they (try to) anihilate all other players, especially the Open_Source..
    It's like "winning" a football match by shooting down the opposing team - and then claiming you've won because the other team refuses to play...
    Duh... _What_ a flock of (ms-controlled) sheeple you really are ! Isn't it time to wake up in the _real_ world, you morons !!
    If ms would say it is good for you to be butchered - without one single doubt - you would believe it and go running to the slaughterhouse to get yourself killed "to the greater glory of the divine ms" ! Even (real) sheep are smarter than that, I reckon...
    Stop defending the unethical, immoral as wel as extremely harmful behaviour of criminal monopolists like ms...
    (Perhaps you ms-advocates are all hired FUDders totally owned & controlled by ms - anybody defending ms simply can't be an intelligent lifeform...)
    Maybe "ms" really means "More Sheeple" or "Mainly Spyware" or "Megalomane Sicko's" and "xp" clearly stands for "eXposed Privacy".
  • Without a common operating system in the world there simply woudlnt be a real world computer industry. Sure you would have internet geek ware but computers for the masses wouldnt exist. Nor would the massive range of software that is currently avaliable.

    I've not in favour or against monopolies its justs an ineviable state for many products. The world was never going to accept multiple video recorder format and in the end it wont accept multple OS's. Jo Bloggs the secretary needs to go from one company to another and see the same WP/computer. Anyone who cant see this lives in dreamworld
  • Dear Jon & All Other Readers,

    A "common" Operating System just _might_ be a good thing --- provided it is an Open_Standards & Open_Source system - not one owned by a monopolist !
    Anybody advocating monopolistic closed "standards" & sources systems like the one's distributed by ms to be compulsary for the entire world doesn't understand _one bit_ of IT ! Neither how the free market economy works.
    Monopolies are a real _bad_ thing for comsumers as well as developers, because they destroy the free market, honest competition and free choice of products. It would boil down to "corporate dictatorship" - nobody in his right mind can possibly approve of _that_ !
    In fact monopolies are contradictive to and incompatible with democracy, civilisation and innovation as such.
    Anyone _not_ understandig this simple thruth should learn economy first and comment these issues later. Finally: I certainly don't live in "a dream world" - I'd rather call it a "nightmare world" due to ms & their (IT-) world-domination (as I'd call it: world damnation...).

    GrtZ, Q_Sourceror.

    You're right about one thing: I've got lotsa "Geek-stuff" in my - of course *BSD/Linux - computer (as well as piling up on my desk & in my house).
    Because of it my WWWeb-security has _never_ been breached (not even once) and my system is totally reliable, stable and (at least, to me) utterly usable.
    It seems there're lotta folks out there scared sh*tless of tty's (commandlines) - now tell me: how can you do any system-administration, real programming or IT-development without iT ? The answer is: you cannot !
    IMHO: Open_Source Rules & ms $*ck$ !
  • As previously quoted

    "It seems there're lotta folks out there scared sh*tless of tty's (commandlines) - now tell me: how can you do any system-administration, real programming or IT-development without iT "

    Easy use Windows. Just shows you why unix bods dont have a clue command lines belong in the 70's, and yeah windows isnt perfect it still needs one. Its not a case of being scared its case of actually doing a real job that doesnt involve looking up obscure syntax.

    When IT bods realise that having unless you have a pretty interface for a computer application things like stability, security even being free is utterly utterly worthless. Computer do not exist to give geeks jobs
  • Jon,
    You really do have very little understanding of the real world or IT.
    The fact (and this is a fact, I have seen this with my own eyes) is that IT skills can easily pass between computer platforms. People can switch between applications on Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. with very little difficulty. In fact, it is often less disruptive than switching between different versions of Word.

    The big mistake the MS advocates are making are:
    * Assuming that FOSS are stealing something from the likes of Microsoft. In most cases they are not. Providing compatibility with a system (Samba being a case in point) is not "stealing".

    * Assuming this is all about supporting FOSS. It is not! It is about supporting choice (whether that is Windows, Linux, Mac, or other), and ensuring that all of us don't get screwed by monopolistic organisations imposing standards we don't need in order to protect their own fragile business.

    A classic example of this is the WMA format. The ONLY reason people use this is because it is the default for the Windows Desktop. It isn't new, it isn't innovative, and it really isn't particularly good. And yet it has become a standard and MS are earning significant licence fees from it simply because they own the desktop market. A don't see how anyone can possibly argue that this is a good thing for anyone.

    If Windows really is better, why are Microsoft artificially creating barriers (both legal and technical) to stop it interworking with other systems? Why are Microsoft creating proprietary versions of technology where standards already exist? Why are Microsoft running scared and spreading misinformation about competing technologies?
  • To MS users, who do actual IT work...
    How misinformed and idiotic is your conclusion and debates. People still work on computerswithout knowing a word of the code its running, and thats what ought to be, but people like us who have to support know how difficult it is to support MS when something goes wrong, usually the first and last word is format and reload the OS (-:.
    Software is a domain rembling mind. if tomorrow, someone says dont think because I have patented and $ucked it, and if you support it, theng go live with them, spare the readers here!
    I prefer a more free and transparent world, where If the S/W is available and its not patented and yes its source available, so that in case the company goes caput, I can always do something. And free or not free is not a debate.. Redhat is earning! Samba geeks are well paid (-: and I am sure MS would be dreaming to recruit such geeks ;).
    Dont worry, Like MS you folks should learn the hard way, which is coming...
    IF MS decides it's next future versions will be closed OS's, they will have taken the worst buisness dicision.
  • @ Jon & others who, how exceptional !, really have(n't) a clue or (not) even a cue... ;-)

    Because off " Easy use Windows " the development of systems that are
    a. stable & secure,
    b. userfriendly has been frustrated for over 10 years by now !!
    Have you read the "official opinion" by the ms-CEO (mr.beef stalmer, ehhh, steve balmer ;-) ) stating "Linux is a tumor" and "Open_Source slows down innovation" ?
    As if anybody in his right mind can call ms "innovative" ! Except in thinking up the weirdest "End User Licence Agreements" (meaning: Licence to abUse their victims 'till the End).
    Do you know ms also has a stranglehold on hardware producers to deliberately fix their stuff into ms-only-sh*t - so it can't be used with _any other_ (e.g. Linux) software ??
    Did you know so called "reversed engineering" is a _felony_ in the USA: you are _not_ even allowed to understand how (electronic) stuff you are using (rather: being abused by, in the case of ms) works - making it pretty hard to write *BSD/Linux-drivers for hardware you bought and therefore_legally_ own ? Or is it: _you_ being owned by the manufactor of the stuff ??
    Isn't that an undenieable example of monopolistic abuse or is ms above the law by now because they stole more than enough money to buy (corrupt) entire governments ??? As I think they actually do !!
    The reason PCs seem so cluncky is 100 % due to ms and their "userfriendly" warez - Open_Sourcerors are trying to change it for the better for everyone. It's about time people start to realize the way IT really is !

    NO, computers are not make to give geeks jobs - it is the opposite: geeks invented computers to make (their as well as ) everyones jobs easier, at least that was and still is their intention...
    At least that was the case before ms stepped in and forced their flimsy "systems" upon the world as a "standard" - violating among others the official W3C-standards etc.
    (Perhaps standard html, ascii, C-code and IP/TCP-protocols are actually way to hard to grasp for ms. ;-) Quite hilarious is the _fact_ ms (ab)uses _Linux_ on their servers.. ;-) )

    Finally: The "easy" might not be the preferred way to go - remember the (high)way to hell is far easier to go that the oway leading to heaven. (I prefer, of course, the latter !)
    According to ms-"philosophy" the road to hell is to be preferred because of its "easyness"... Yeah, right, as pigs can fly !
    A "system" crashing all the time, needing to be re-installed at least monthly, suffering virus, worms, spyware (probably made by ms itself like key-loggers, passphrase harvesters, etc.), high price,
    bullying "licences", and so on & on & on...
    One calling _that_ "userfriendly" or "easy to use" I call manipulated, naive and utterly incompetent, incapable to judge IT-stuff and even less equipped to judge the ones (so called geeks, Hackers & nerds) really grokking IT and being innovative & doing programming (in C, perl, python - sometimes even in assembly - _NOT_ visual-basic and the likes of that by ms - hell, they're not even real programming languages ! )

    I haven't got energy, motivation nor time to "participate" in a full scale flamewar... Although, today I officially nominate ms for the (in)famous "Asbestos Cork Award" ! I'm sure they really deserve every bit of it !!
    I've got way better things to do e.g. to write programs (in C, etc. ) for Linux, record (hard core rap) music with friends, help another friend (I'm doing most of the complex math) to design high-end loudspeakers and so on & so on.
    Yep, I'm a very occupied little geek - I love to build all kinda (geek) stuff and give it away soon as it's finished (like software). I don't really care much owning stuff - I prefer designing and building IT.
    To _give_ is often more rewarding than to take, you know ? ( or eventually: take by force, that is even worse...)
    That's precisely why I _really_ don't like the infinitive greed, bullyish attitude, limitless arrogance nor the blatant incompet