TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Microsoft Offers Rivals Technical Support

Microsoft Offers Rivals Technical Support

Raf Casert (
Wed, 22 Mar 2006 13:50:15 -0600

By RAF CASERT, Associated Press Writer

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday offered "free, unlimited technical
support" to rivals interested in making their software work with
Microsoft servers, saying it wanted to comply with a landmark EU
antitrust ruling.

"We are committed to doing everything in our power to address the
(European) Commission's concerns," Microsoft General Counsel Brad
Smith said in a statement.

A spokesman for the EU's antitrust office said the Microsoft offer
"seems to be a constructive proposal," but said the company needed to
make more efforts to fully fall in line with the EU's 2004 ruling.

"Microsoft will naturally be well placed to answer questions from
licensees on specific points of the technical documents," EU spokesman
Jonathan Todd said.

He insisted, however, that even two years after the ruling that forced
Microsoft to share technical details with rivals, Microsoft's efforts
remained insufficient.

"The Commission's preliminary view is that the technical documentation
still does not comply with the requirements of the March 2004
decision," he said. The EU has threatened Microsoft with 2 million
euros ($2.4 million) in daily fines, backdated to Dec. 15, and said it
would make its final decision after Microsoft pleaded its case at a
hearing next week.

"Microsoft will have the opportunity to explain how this technical
support is relevant to the March 2004 decision," Todd said.

The EU levied a record 497 million euro ($603 million) fine against
Microsoft in March 2004. It also ordered the company to share code
with rivals and to offer a version of Windows without the Media Player

Microsoft is appealing the ruling, and the case will be heard in late
April by the European Court of First Instance, the EU's second-highest

In the meantime, Microsoft said the documentation already made
available and Wednesday's offer showed the company's good intentions.

"These new documentation projects, together with free and unlimited
technical support and access to Windows source code, will ensure that
our competitors have all the assistance they need," Smith said.

Up to now, Microsoft had offered up to 500 hours of technical support
free of charge and upped that to an unlimited amount on Wednesday. "We
are committed to taking every possible step to satisfy the
Commission's requirements," Smith said.

Todd said that, in principle, rivals should be able to make their
software compatible with Microsoft servers based on nothing but the
technical documentation itself.

"Companies trying to compete with Microsoft must be able to have
access to usable, workable documentation and should not be forced to
rely on help from Microsoft staff," he said.

The man appointed to monitor Microsoft's compliance with the EU ruling
-- computer science professor Neil Barrett -- has found that although
the documentation had improved slightly over the past months, there
were still significant gaps in meeting standards.

Microsoft said it had devoted over 30,000 hours to developing
extensive documentation and said in a statement it "meets or exceeds
industry standards."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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