Microsoft has submitted documents required by the European Commission in an effort to avoid further fines for breaching an antitrust ruling, a spokeswoman for the European Union regulator said on Monday. “We received the technical documentation from Microsoft. The competition services are currently analyzingit with the help of the trustee. It’s too early to say whether they complied with the decision,” the spokeswoman said.
Microsoft Submitted Documents in Bid to Avoid Fine
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2006-07-31 11:33 pmormandj
With how much the rest of the world hates the US/everybody in the US already – regardless of what each individual/company has done, MS didn’t have much of a choice short of pulling out of every country on earth. What did you expect to happen? It’s a business, they want money, the choice is clear…
They’ve already got a bad reputation (MS, the EU – not as much..), and although I think the EU really went over the top on this one, MS did deserve some kind of punishment. I think that the “amount” was incorrect – as well as the demands the EU has placed on MS, but other than that I agree with the EU’s decision to fine MS based on business ethics alone. The anti-competative practices have got to stop, one way or another. I don’t think that equates to forcing the company to open up all of it’s little bag’o’secrets, I think it just means fining them enough that it stings (even MS) until they start playing fair. The EU took it to an entirely new level, that part is the one I don’t agree with. Oh well – who am I to judge – I’m one of the “hated”.
2006-08-01 1:08 amrm6990
They just forced them to reveal specs to allow interoperability. Microsoft turned around, offered to license code and then cried the blues that the EU was forcing them to give away code, and then the EU rejected Microsoft’s offer to provide source code, saying they wanted specs.
So if it’s code you think Microsoft is being forced to offer, you should quit buying Microsoft’s garbage. If it is the specs you think are overboard, then your thinking is against what the market needs, IMHO.
EDIT: by quit buying Microsoft’s garbage, I mean quit believing them, not stop buying their products.
Edited 2006-08-01 01:10
2006-08-01 1:28 amormandj
I’ve yet to see any *credible* source on the exact request the EU made. If you’ve got one, I’d love to see it. I’m just going off the news I’ve read, not press releases by MS or the EU, because I believe they are both corrupt organizations (although neither as bad as the UN!)
I don’t purchase MS products, either. I’m a Solaris, FreeBSD, and Mac shop. I don’t purchase MS “garbage.”
Thank you if you can provide me with some factual information about what the EU “request” to MS was and what MS was fined for specifically, and I’ll be happy.
2006-08-01 1:31 pmhal2k1
//I’ve yet to see any *credible* source on the exact request the EU made.//
All sources that I find are in agreement.
Microsoft were asked to provide specifications for the networking protocol used by Windows network clients.
Here is the prime quote, from the “horses mouth”, about what Microsoft themselves thought they were asked to provide …
“With today’s announcement, Microsoft is going far beyond the European Commission’s March 2004 decision and its legal obligations to provide companies with the technical specifications of its proprietary communications protocols.”
… and of course there are a great many additional weasel words and Microsoftspeak about them offering something else entirely different.
From the point of view of someone trying to interface to Windows clients:
“In the development of Samba Microsoft has already disclosed to us specifications similar to those that we are now requesting. Microsoft has given to the Samba Team in the past internal documents describing exactly the level of protocol information we now need. These documents are now no longer useful, as Microsoft creates modified versions of its protocols on a regular basis, as it releases new versions of its Windows software. The documents given to us were marked internal we used them to create Samba code, as Microsoft intended when they gave them to us. They gave us these documents knowing we would create code with them, and they encouraged this. We were not required to sign non-disclosure agreements to obtain this information, we were simply treated as a trusted third party, as I believe we have been. We have never disclosed their contents publicly, only the code we created.
What we are requesting via these remedies is that Microsoft return to the policy of openness and co-operation with others that they followed in the past. The claims that we have not requested information on the protocols is not true. We have made repeated requests to Microsoft that they continue the kind of disclosures they made before they came to dominate this market.
A protocol, like a language, is a convention for communication. We need to know if the noun comes before the verb. We can learn ourselves by listening to others speak, this is what we do now to teach ourselves how to talk with Microsoft software. But such a self-taught student will always be behind someone properly taught by a native speaker well versed in grammar.
Microsoft claims that to disclose interoperability information would cause them irreparable harm. However, we believe the information that they are being asked to disclose is not of the immense value they claim.
The protocols Microsoft uses to prevent interoperability are mostly based on open and standard protocol specifications. Microsoft have added undisclosed extensions and additions to standard protocols that create dependencies between their clients and servers. For a non-Microsoft server to provide services to Microsoft clients these interdependencies must be understood by the programmers involved. Microsoft uses this lack of knowledge in third party servers for competitive advantage (“tying together” of clients and servers). Microsoft is building on the standards work of others, and adding small but critical changes for the pure purpose of making Windows clients depend on the presence of Microsoft servers, and Microsoft servers depend upon Microsoft directory servers.
A good analogy would be with the telephone network. The Microsoft documentation for the phone network would tell you how voice is transferred over the lines, but would neglect to tell you how to dial a number. As you can imagine this would cause difficulty for other phone manufacturers. Microsoft is trying to claim that the particular tones that they have chosen to use to dial 1-2-3 are a multi-million dollar investment.
The protocols Microsoft wants to keep secret to prevent interoperability are *not* of high intrinsic value. These protocols are not kept secret by Microsoft because they are valuable, they are valuable to Microsoft because they are kept secret, and thus prevent competition.”
It is all about the specification of the protocols. Nothing else.
This information has been deliberately obscured by Microsoft in order to try to close out competition.
Such behaviour is anti-trust, it is illegal, Microsoft got called on it, found guilty, and fined.
That is not “victimisation” of Microsoft. That is purely and simply trying to force a monopoly to allow competing products.
2006-08-01 5:08 pmalisonken1
Groklaw has an article on EU v. MS (the article is about MS asking to delay sanctions, but the links are there for the decision as well).
If you want to look at some other links on MS litigation (as both defendant and litigant), you can check the MS litigation page at Groklaw:
2006-08-01 2:57 pmeMagius
The EU and Microsoft stared each other in the eye, and Microsoft blinked first it appears.
Howso? The EU fined Microsoft, requested changes to XP, and requested certain documentation by a specific deadline. Microsoft paid the fine, made the changes to XP, and submitted documentation on time. The EU claimed the documentation was inadequete. Microsoft offered its source code. The EU rejected it, requested additional documentation and fined Microsoft. Microsoft paid the additional fine and submitted further documentation as requested.
There was no playing chicken involved.
Edited 2006-08-01 15:00
A billion dollars total eh? EU made a lot of money on this one. Anybody besides me think they are a bit too eager to make money from Microsoft?
To write an application, what is needed is specifications of the API, and thus Microsoft was ordered to open the specifications to its APIs to level the playing field between its own applications and the applications that third parties write. If they were documented, then there should be no hidden interface that MS applications can use to make their own programs run quicker or better etc, and therefore not have an uncompetitive advantage.
However, MS didn’t offer these specs, – they only offered source code, and thats a big problem.
Firstly, reading the source code of the actual API may take an extremely long time to figure out what is going on at the interface and all possible input instances to the API, and furthermore, its response in limiting cases.
Secondly, if you use the source code of any interface in your application, then you must pay microsoft for the privelege – either a monetary payment, or a payment in the limitation of the license you can then use in your own software. Effectively, MS will be able to control and limit what you do with your own application.
Thirdly, if you read the source code to understand it, and then go and write your own code to access the API, then you are certainly ‘copying’ the code which has lots of bad implications. It is impossible to write clean code.
Specs of the interface are absolutely necessary to write software that interfaces with the other software and is not tied to it legally or otherwise.
Using in any way MSs source code will only tie you, in addition to making the developer spend a huge amount of time tracing an interface to try to understand how it works, even in limiting and fringe cases. If the interface results in a complicate action dependent on other factors, then it may be impossible to understand in a reasonable amount of time.
2006-08-01 3:38 pmMollyC
You don’t really know what this case is about (not that I blame you, since there’s been so much misinformation, and indeed disinformation spread aobut it, but you’re spreading it further with your post).
The specs the that EC demanded are not the general Windows api (Win32, COM, DirectX, etc, which have been public for years (how do you think Windows apps are developed?)), but are merely the specs for the network protocol between Windows clients and Windows servers, particulary, the ActiveDirectory protocol. The EU case has nothing to do with leveling the playing field between first party and third party Windows apps, but has to do with opening the Windows network protocol so that non-Windows servers can interact with Windows clients as if they were indeed Windows servers.
The ActiveDirectory protocol was never meant to be a public protocol, so there was no internal documentation suitable to use as a public specification. Indeed, there is no “API” as such, but merely a bunch of C-structures passes in various RPC calls as needed. Demanding the opening of that “protocol” for public use is like demanding that Apple open up the internal functions used by iDVD as a public API (for example).
(Microsoft initially released the internal documentation, but they were rejected because they’re not suitable for public use (there’s a big difference between the requirements for internal and external specs). Microsoft then offered 500 free hours of tech support to anyone that couldn’t grok the specs they released, then offered the source code. The EU rejected rightly these, but I think the fine was excessive, because there’s no evidence that Microsoft attempted to hide anything; otherwise they wouldn’t have offered the internal specs, 500 free hourse of tech support, and the source code.)
Oh, and as for regarding the value of the specs vs the source, here’s what the head of Samba had to say:
When the idea was mooted a year ago, joint-lead of the Samba project Jeremy Allison told us that a published specification was of no use at all:- “There can’t be a specification that’s worth anything,” he told us. “The source code itself is the specification . The level of detail required to interoperate successfully is simply not documentable – it would produce a stack of paper so high you might as well publish the source code.”
Of course, Samba wants the source so they can make a free version of ActiveDirectory and give it away. I guess they’ll have to use the “specs” instead. (And he was right about the huge size of the specs, BTW.)
Edited 2006-08-01 15:45
2006-08-01 5:15 pmmarkjensen
Of course, Samba wants the source so they can make a free version of ActiveDirectory and give it away.
That would be copyright infringement. Looking at the source would taint the development and make the code written legally suspect. Jeremy was venting in frustration, but you see it as a Samba request to copy Microsoft’s code.
If you cared to follow that link you posted one level further (to the source article that Jeremy’s quote was taken from), you would see that the position is clearly stated that they want “the IDL descriptions for remote procedure calls”. Not source code to illegally re-distribute at all.
2006-08-01 11:34 pmhal2k1
//The ActiveDirectory protocol was never meant to be a public protocol//.
This is the core of the real problem. This protocol is an interoperability protocol, of the same type as other communictaions protocols are. Physically separate devices (that are themselves able to be purchased as independent lots) communicate (often via 3rd party equipment) using this protocol.
In this sense, it is in the same category as (say) a telephony protocol, or the specification of a television signal.
For every other such protocol, having a free market requires that the protocol is fully specified and open for any vendor to produce compatible products. Certainly it is possible to buy a telephone handset from any of several vendors, a PABX from any of several vendors, and even a public exchange from any of several vendors, and expect all of the equipment to readily interoperate. This arrangement (of allowing several vendors to produce products that work to a common interoperability specification) is the very basis of a free capitalist market.
Likewise it is possible to buy a television from any of several vendors, a VCR from any of several vendors, a DVD player from any of several vendors, and have the whole assembly work well to receive television transmissions from broadcast stations or play DVDs rented from a local store. The braodcast stations can likewise buy transmitters from any of several vendors, and video cameras and recorders from any of several vendors, and so on. All the equipment will interoperate, because it all works to a common television broadcast and signalling standard.
Microsoft, and Microsoft alone, think they have a right to take such a common communications standard (in this case CIFS), then obscure and corrupt it in secret so that their products will not work (communicate) with anything else other than other Microsoft products. Microsoft did this for one reason only – to try to lock out any competing products.
That is not “IP”. That is straight-out “anti-trust”. That is attempting to avoid competition. That is straight-out trying to subvert having a free market.
This is anti-competitive. This is illegal practice. Microsoft are not allowed to do this, by law. Because they did it, they have been fined.
There are two possible remedies: (1) Microsoft is to enable every one of their products to work (in addition) with an alternative “open” specification networking protocol so that there can be competition in the market once again, or (2) Microsoft is to reveal the specifications of the existing protocol in their existing product that they have obscured.
Remedy (2) is a lot less burdensome on Microsoft. Remedy (1) is probably not even possible. The EU court therefore directed Microsoft to provide remedy (2).
Throughout this entire ordeal, I’ve never been able to understand why Microsoft should have to give their technology and IP away.
Anti-competitive behaviour yes, needs to be dismantled, but not at the expense of billion dollar investments in technology and IP.
It’s hard to know the ins and outs of Microsoft but there has to be a separation between commercial competitive practices and engineering.
Edited 2006-08-01 01:53
2006-08-01 3:22 amnii_
“ Throughout this entire ordeal, I’ve never been able to understand why Microsoft should have to give their technology and IP away. “
IP (Intellectual Property) is usually considered the collective of disparate areas and laws. It consists of Trademark law, Copyright law, and Patent law, etc.
So out of this, what is MS being forced to gave away that is considered to be its own Intellectual Property?
MS has been requested by the EU to document and release specifications of its APIs.
The APIs are certainly not trademarks.
Now the source code and binaries etc defining these APIs are certainly copyrighted, and the techniques used within to carry out a specific function may or may not be patented depending on the technique.
However, being forced to open up its APIs to full documentation so that third parties may write application that utilise the interface, is certainly not making MS release any of its ‘Intellectual Property’.
2006-08-01 4:01 ambutters
So you’re not familiar with software engineering. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m being serious–many professional software developers don’t understand it either. Let me explain:
Engineering is concerned with creating specifications that describe solutions to given problems. In software engineering, there are three high-level specifications: design, implementation, and interface.
Design comes first. This is where you take the requirements for the program, create scenarios and use cases, and develop an architecture that includes things like objects and methods. This step is what separates the men from the boys, so to speak.
Now comes implementation. Here’s where you fire up your favorite version of vi–or whatever you kids use today, with your rock & roll music and such–and get to coding: data structures, algorithms, and control. If this is the hardest part of the process, you’re doing something wrong.
The final part is to provide some way for the user or other software to access the functionality. This is called an interface. Many modern software applications have literally dozens of different interfaces, ranging from (G)UIs to APIs to network protocols.
The three layers of specifications correspond roughly to the four kinds of people that interact with software: users need to know the UI and/or GUI portions of the interface specification; 3rd-party developers need to know the full interface specification; testers need to know the interface and design specifications; and developers must have access to all specifications.
They key here is that all that 3rd-party developers need is the interface specifications in order to design their own software to interoperate with your’s. It’s very rare that interoperability cannot be acheived with a complete set of interface specifications, and that situation is usually a sign of poorly designed software.
Just as there is no law demanding that software comes with end-user documentation, there is none that requires software vendors to provide interface specifications. Normally, it’s a software vendor’s right to keep their interface specifications proprietary. This simply means that they don’t want 3rd-party software to interoperate with their’s, and that’s their prerogative. They can also license their interface specifications on a commercial basis.
The nature of the OS market and Microsoft’s position in it creates a situation where 3rd-party developers must interoperate with Microsoft software in order to survive. It isn’t always possible to license the specifications, for reasons that range from the 3rd-party being unable to afford it, to Microsoft just not feeling like offering the license at all.
OSS has created another problem with this situation. There are plenty of OSS vendors that could be happy to fork over the cash to license certain interface specifications, but Microsoft and other proprietary vendors (e.g. graphics vendors) will only release the specifications under NDA. This means that the vendor cannot release software that uses the proprietary interface under an OSS license. Most OSS vendors are legally required to release this software as OSS due to the terms of their license to distribute the software. Others have community or corporate policies that prohibit them from distributing proprietary code.
We can debate the extent to which the EU’s support for OSS has impacted their antitrust rulings against Microsoft. However, there is no debate concerning the economic impact of Microsoft’s decision to keep most of their interface specifications proprietary. They have the power to kill any kind of software vendor by refusing to license specifications or by making changes to “standard” specifications. This is an unreasonable amount of power for a corporation that commands the vast majority of the PC and server markets.
Are the interface specifications a component of Microsoft’s IP? Certainly. Is this enough to replicate Microsoft’s implementations? Certainly not. The crown jewels for Microsoft are their design specifications. That’s what makes their software so, um… good. That’s the most valuable portion of the IP of any software vendor, and releasing interface specifications doesn’t affect their ability to protect their IP related to designs or implementations.
The only reason why a software vendor in Microsoft’s position would fight so hard against the request to open their interface specifications is if they determined that the ability to control access to their interfaces was more valuable that the combined value of their design and implementation.
That’s the issue at bar for Microsoft. It turns out that their designs and implementations aren’t so great, and they’re concerned that 3rd-parties can develop better designs and implementations based on the same interfaces. That’s pretty much the definition of anticompetitive behavior, and that’s why the EU is demanding that Microsoft open its interface specifications.
See, there’s not much to misunderstand once you get past the basics.
2006-08-01 9:11 amhal2k1
//Throughout this entire ordeal, I’ve never been able to understand why Microsoft should have to give their technology and IP away.
Anti-competitive behaviour yes, needs to be dismantled, but not at the expense of billion dollar investments in technology and IP.
It’s hard to know the ins and outs of Microsoft but there has to be a separation between commercial competitive practices and engineering.//
Microsoft are not asked to “give their IP away” at all. Microsoft are asked to provide specifications of how their Windows clients can be interfaced to over a network LAN.
The easiest analogy is perhaps a telephone network. The makers of telephone exchanges have a common specification to work with in regards to how a common telephone handset is interfaced. There are hardware details like the physical wire pair, the line impedance, the microphone voltages, the ring voltages, the frequencies of the dial tones etc, and software details such as the sequence “lift handset, wait for dial tone, dial number including prefixes for long distance and international, wait for answer, speak, hang up” etc, etc. These are all standard and specified. Anyone can make a telephone exchange that can provide a switching service for standard handset telephones. The making of exchanges (and handsets for that matter) is therefore open to free market competition.
This does not mean that siemens or phillips or alcatel or whoever is required to reveal the circuit diagrams of their handsets. The only requirement is conformance of those handsets to a fully specified signalling protocol.
Taking this analogy to the EU case with Microsoft, all Microsoft are being asked for is the specification of the “signalling protocol” that their product Windows client desktop machines (= “handsets”) conform to. This is so that anyone else (other than Microsoft themselves) are able to build compatible LAN server products (=”exchanges”). Microsoft are not being asked to reveal how they built their Windows machines (“handsets”), they are only being asked to reveal how to work with their Windows machines (“handsets”).
Microsoft want to keep this a secret, so that only Microsoft can build both “handsets” and “excahnges”. This would be analogous to allowing just one company to provide and control the entire telephone network. This is anti-trust and anti-competitive, and it is therefore illegal.
Edited 2006-08-01 09:12
2006-08-01 9:47 amrenox
> I’ve never been able to understand why Microsoft should have to give their technology and IP away.
Microsoft has a monopoly on the clients, and have tried to use it to get a monopoly on servers by using proprietary API between servers and clients.
CEE consider that this is an abuse of monopoly so they asked Microsoft to provide the specification of their API.
Simple and sensible.
You probably didn’t even try to understand..
Thanks butters, that was a very informative read
im glad sumone is finally sticking it to MS and trying to make sure they play fair.
im not entirely concerned with MS IP or what happens to it, what i want to see out of this is a version of windows that does NOT come with any built in apps, like windows media player, IE, messenger, outlook express. AND if price reflected this lack of ‘features’ and this OS was for sale for something like 49.99$ retail THEN i could see recomending it to peeple as their OS.
2006-08-01 7:09 pmmarkjensen
I’m not a Microsoft supporter in any way, but I don’t think that is proper to enjoy “sticking it to” any company/group/individual. Reasonable and just enforcement of rules, fairly applied to all is a good thing. A vendetta is not.
Also, “IP” (copyrights, trademarks and patents) should be respected regardless of who the holder is. The same laws are used to protect projects like Linux, too.
The EU and Microsoft stared each other in the eye, and Microsoft blinked first it appears.