July 12, 2006

Commission to Microsoft: Preventing interoperabilily has a price

FSFE welcomes the decision by the European Commission. "Microsoft is still as far from allowing competition as it was on the
day of the original Commission ruling in 2004. All proposals made by
Microsoft were deliberately exclusive of Samba, the major remaining
competitor. In that light, the fines do not seem to come early, and
they do not seem high," comments Carlo Piana, Milano based lawyer of
the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) regarding the decision of
the European Commission to fine Microsoft 1.5 million Euro per day
retroactively from 16. December 2005, totalling 280.5 million Euro.
Should Microsoft not come into compliance until the end of July 2006,
the daily fines could be doubled.

These fines are a reaction to Microsofts continued lack of compliance
with the European Commission decision to make interoperability
information available to competitors as a necessary precondition to
allow fair competition. FSFE has supported the European Commission
>From the start of the suit in 2001.

Having made similar statements during the hearing, Microsoft commented
to the press last week [1] that 300 engineers are currently working
"day and night" to fulfill the request of the public authorities.

"If we are to believe Microsofts numbers, it appears that 120.000
person days are not enough to document its own software. This is a
task that good software developers do during the development of
software, and a hallmark of bad engineering," comments Georg Greve,
president of the FSFE. "For users, this should be a shock: Microsoft
apparently does not know the software that controls 95% of all desktop
computers on this planet. Imagine General Motors releasing a press
statement to the extent that even though they had 300 of their best
engineers work on this for two years, they cannot provide
specifications for the cars they built."

Many companies run a mixed network of Windows, GNU/Linux, Unix and
other operating systems (OS). The Windows products understand each
other, and all the other operating systems can talk to each other. It
is the connection between the two worlds that was deliberatly
obfuscated a few years ago by Microsoft, and that the Samba project is
working on.

During the main hearing at the European Court of Justice toward the
end of April, the president and founder of Samba Dr. Andrew Tridgell
presented the work of the Samba Team work. Among other things, he
demonstrated a box for roughly 100 EUR. If Microsoft did not hide its
interoperability information, that box would already be capable of
administrating hundreds of users. A small 100 EUR box could do the
same task that is currently done by an entire PC for 1.000,- EUR.

"Dr. Tridgell demonstrated easily what kind of innovation is locked
out of the market by Microsofts refusal to interoperate with other
vendors. In this case, the price of that refusal are domain
controllers that are ten times more expensive than necessary, and the
price is paid by everyone: private businesses, public authorities and
society as a whole," Georg Greve summarises.

He concludes: "When will society refuse to legitimise such business
practices by buying from companies that exhibit such behaviour?"

[1] http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2006/07/04/ 216779/Microsoft+working+%E2%80%9Cday+and+night%E2 %80%9D+to+meet+EC+deadline.htm

About the Free Software Foundation Europe:

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a charitable
non-governmental organisation dedicated to all aspects of Free
Software in Europe. Access to software determines who may
participate in a digital society. Therefore the Freedoms to use,
copy, modify and redistribute software - as described in the Free
Software definition- allow equal participation in the information
age. Creating awareness for these issues, securing Free Software
politically and legally, and giving people Freedom by supporting
development of Free Software are central issues of the FSFE. The
FSFE was founded in 2001 as the European sister organisation of the
Free Software Foundation in the United States.

Further information: http://fsfeurope.org/

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