Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Sep 2007 15:17 UTC, submitted by Rahul
Legal Microsoft suffered a stunning defeat on Monday when a European Union court backed a European Commission ruling that the US software giant illegally abused its market power to crush competitors. The European Union's second-highest court dismissed the company's appeal on all substantive points of the 2004 antitrustruling. The court said Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, was unjustified in tying new applications to its Windows operating system in a way that harmed consumer choice. The verdict, which may be appealed only on points of law and not of fact, could force Microsoft to change its business practices.
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PlatformAgnostic
Member since:
2006-01-02

What we will likely see is this: Microsoft licenses its server protocols at a small royalty fee ($1 per copy or something like that). There is no likely way that the EU can force them to release this information at no cost at all, so they'll do this. This fee will be enough to make it unimplementable in Linux (certainly not as GPL code, because it would be licensed to specific companies and not to the community as a whole). Do you think that SAMBA will be able to survive this treatment?

Frankly, I think this interoperability shenanigan is all a farce. No one besides the linux people actually wishes to develop server-side software that is interoperable with Windows. It is hard and financially unrewarding (IBM and now Sun can just as easily sell Windows and make the same profit). Linux is the only real threat to Microsoft here, and it won't get the benefits of this ruling because there will still be a patent license, and it won't be royalty-free.

All the EU is doing is pushing Microsoft into a defensive corner which will make everyone worse off. Before the DoJ case, Microsoft had no full-time lobbyists. Afterwards they hired 5 in DC. Before the first few patent lawsuits, Microsoft had very few patents. Now they file them at a rate exceeded only by IBM. Before the EU rulings, Microsoft did not have a history of making competition complaints against other companies. Now we might see more filings like the one against the Google-DoubleClick buyout. Giving the Courts a role in the increasingly rancorous politics of the software industry will only lead to more pain.
One of the few of Milton Freidman's statements I agree with:
"You will rue the day when you called in the government. From now on the computer industry, which has been very fortunate in that it has been relatively free of government intrusion, will experience a continuous increase in government regulation."

Reply Score: 2

lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

Linux is the only real threat to Microsoft here, and it won't get the benefits of this ruling because there will still be a patent license, and it won't be royalty-free.


Making this assumption about a patent license is, I think, where the Windows cheerleaders get it wrong.

Here is the fact: Windows networking does not have patent protection.

How do I know?

The underlying protocol is an IBM invention, not Microsoft's:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_Message_Block#History

What happened was that originally, Windows networking was a minor player, competing against Netware. Microsoft got everybody to interoperate, even going so far as to share specifications with the early Samba project. Then, after some time Netware began to fail, and Windows networking became dominant, suddenly Microsoft stopped the co-operation and deliberately obscured the protocol.

Microsoft did not invent SMB, they just obscured it.

Microsoft have no patents here. You need to reveal how an invention of yours works in order to get a patent. Windows networking is neither revealed, nor is it an invention of Microsoft's.

The interesting question is if you can charge a royalty for something which another company invented, and you just obscured, and for which you hold no patents.

I don't believe you can charge a royalty for that ... especially if you are a monopoly.

Reply Parent Score: 4

sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

"""
Here is the fact: Windows networking does not have patent protection.

How do I know?

The underlying protocol is an IBM invention, not Microsoft's:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_Message_Block#History
"""

Where it confirms that MS has added much to the original protocol. A couple of examples from your linked Wikipedia article:

"but the most common version is modified heavily by Microsoft."

"Microsoft has added several extensions to its own SMB implementation."


Plenty of room for new patents there, I should say.

I've lost count of how many times you have repeated this falsehood about the current Microsoft SMB protocol being owned by IBM. Please stop. The current form of the protocol suite just isn't. No matter how much you would like us to think so.

Reply Parent Score: 2

PlatformAgnostic Member since:
2006-01-02

SMB(2) is not the only protocol we're talking about here. All that covers is file and printer sharing (I'm not really clear on if it even does authentication and NETLOGIN). There are a lot of server-server protocols necessary for proper replication of information on a domain. And it gets even more complicated when you consider replication across domains in an Active Directory. There are literally near 50 sub-protocols involved in this.

It's not really clear to me why Microsoft needs to release this and why you'd want to use many of these protocols except with multiple Windows servers. It makes sense to force the release of the server-client protocols so that you could use Linux servers to serve Windows clients and vice-versa. The EC also wanted server-server protocols though. In my opinon, these are a fundamental feature of the server system as a whole and that there should be no requirement on licensing these out for free (it's not particularly monopolistic to make multiple copies of your server work well together and perform useful connected roles).

Here's a patent on this sort of server-server communication that would be of particular relevance to someone trying to interoperate with Windows Server (password synchronization): http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d...

Reply Parent Score: 3

anda_skoa Member since:
2005-07-07

This fee will be enough to make it unimplementable in Linux (certainly not as GPL code, because it would be licensed to specific companies and not to the community as a whole)


This is an interesting issue.

I am not sure this can actually happen, because the reuqest is to make the specifications available under reasonable terms and both the comission as well as the court have specifically acknowledged that GPL based projects like Samba are the main competitors.

So my interpretation is that while the price for specification papers might not be small and not include permission to re-distribute them, it is unlikely that the terms will include any portions which would make it impossible to use them in GPL software, since this would not be reasonable.

However, based on Microsoft's continuing unwillingness to comply, they will likely try such a route to further delay the actual date of compliance.

Reply Parent Score: 2