EC rebuffs Microsoft over open-source report

Commission refused to 'bury' the report despite a barrage of arguments from Microsoft, report author tells ZDNet UK
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor on

The European Commission has resisted efforts by Microsoft to make it abandon its report into open-source software, it was revealed this week. But the Commission was swayed into allowing a 10-day period for feedback before completing the report.

Harnessing the opportunity to provide feedback, Microsoft produced 20 pages of arguments as to why the report — which quantified the benefits of open source to European organisations — should be shelved. The software giant also commissioned a respected university academic to back its case and enlisted the help of a trade association, CompTIA. The academic produced 44 pages of evidence supporting Microsoft's case, while CompTIA wrote a five-page submission.

The authors of the Commission's report, headed by academics from the United Nations University in Maastricht, made several amendments to the report as a result of those comments, and comments received from other interested parties.

But the Commission remained committed to publishing the report, according to its lead author Rishab Ghosh.

"There were critical comments from CompTIA. There were others: Microsoft, the [Business] Software Alliance — all along the same lines as CompTIA with varying degrees of details — with the intention to bury the report," Ghosh told ZDNet UK. "They [Microsoft] threw the book at us."

Ghosh, who is a senior open-source software researcher, said the Commission refused to back down under Microsoft's pressure. "The European Commission acted very properly," said Ghosh. "There were lots of conversations [saying] that it should be published."

Asked by ZDNet UK whether the report's pro-open-source stance was diluted after the comments, Ghosh said: "We certainly didn't weaken the report."

Ghosh said the Commission introduced the 10-day feedback period after a "heated discussion" at a public report workshop in September, which was attended by several Microsoft representatives.

Since publication of the report, the European Commission has come under further pressure from CompTIA, which is part-funded by Microsoft. The CompTIA-backed Initiative for Software Choice wrote a stern letter to the Commission immediately after publication requesting it to lobby the "international press" over their coverage of the subject.

The Commission contacted ZDNet UK within days, apparently seeking to distance itself from the report.

Ghosh subsequently posted his view on proceedings on a ZDNet UK blog .

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