Microsoft makes source code plea to EC

Update: Microsoft is doing its best to avoid a €2m-a-day fine for non-compliance with EU antitrust rulings, but the Free Software Federation isn't impressed

Microsoft has offered to make its Windows server source code available to people licensing its server interoperability protocols, in its latest attempt to achieve compliance with 2004's European antitrust ruling.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said on Wednesday that anyone licensing information about its server protocols will also be able to see how Microsoft itself has implemented the protocols.

"The source code is the DNA of Windows server operating systems," he said. "We are licensing it to our direct competitors so they can learn from it when creating their implementations of our protocols."

Microsoft has already offered to provide 12,000 pages of technical documentation and 500 hours of technical support to companies that wish to implement its server interoperability protocols, according to Smith. He said Microsoft was not obliged to provide the source code, but decided to, despite the fact that it is "very valuable".

In December 2005 the European Commission said that the instructions that Microsoft had submitted for server interoperability were "incomplete and inaccurate" and said that it may impose a daily fine of up to €2m (£1m) if Microsoft did not provide documentation that satisfies the EC by 25 January.

Earlier this week, Microsoft was given an extra three weeks before a decision would be made over its compliance. If it fails, it will once again face the threat of a massive fine.

The European Commission said it would "study carefully" Microsoft's announcement, once it has seen the full details. It also indicated that it isn't prepared to lift the pressure on the software giant.

"The Commission is looking forward to receiving, no later than 15 February, 2006, Microsoft’s reply to the Statement of Objections sent by the Commission on 21st December 2005."

The Free Software Foundation, which has kept lobbing for Microsoft to reveal its server protocols, was unimpressed by this latest move.

"The European Commission asked Microsoft to publish their protocols to allow others to write interoperable software and to reestablish competition. That does not appear to have happened, at least the terms under which the protocols are not clear," said the FSF in a statement.

"What they have done instead is publish source code, which no-one ever asked them to do. Furthermore they do it in a way that makes the situation worse for free software: because that source code is under Microsoft copyright, developers who have seen the source code could not reimplement it in free software for fear of copyright violation.

"It actually seems more likely Microsoft will eventually try to shut down competition by making claims of copyright infringement based on the argument that "the developer could have looked at the source code.

"So it much resembles a holdup where you ask the robber to please put away their gun and they toss you a grenade instead," the FSF added.