Microsoft Releases Windows Server Source Code

Microsoft on Wednesday announced a decision to license all the Windows Server source code for technologies covered by the European Commission’s legal decision of March 2004.

The voluntary move is designed to address categorically all of the issues raised by the Commission’s December 22, 2005, Statement of Objections, the company said.

In it, the EC asserted that Microsoft’s prior technical documentation provided insufficient information to enable licensees to successfully implement certain Windows Server communications protocols.

“Today we are putting our most valuable intellectual property on the table so we can put technical compliance issues to rest and move forward with a serious discussion about the substance of this case,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel. “The Windows source code is the ultimate documentation of Windows Server technologies. With this step, our goal is to resolve all questions about the sufficiency of our technical documentation.”

Far and Above

This action goes far beyond compliance with the European Commission’s March 2004 decision and exceeds Microsoft’s legal obligations to provide companies with the technical specifications of its proprietary communications protocols, the company said.

A reference license to the Windows Server source code will provide software developers with the most precise and authoritative description possible of the Windows protocol technologies, Microsoft noted.

With it, software developers will be entitled to view the Windows source code in order to better understand how to develop products that interoperate with Windows, but they will not be allowed to copy Microsoft’s source code.

“Microsoft’s hand was really forced here,” said Matt Rosoff, lead analyst for Directions on Microsoft.

“Microsoft has been working on this documentation from scratch. It has been difficult for the company because it has a lot of other issues to deal with — in particular, in the Windows Group,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Reasons for Document Failure

Microsoft previously had created more than 12,000 pages of technical documentation for server software developers who obtain a license under this program. It included specifications for the communications protocols covered by the 2004 Decision, as well as for technologies that go beyond those protocols.

In addition, Microsoft previously volunteered to provide up to 500 hours of free technical support provided by experienced professionals who could answer any questions licensees might have.

“This initiative is above and beyond what Microsoft was called to do, butit’s also just a way for the company to show it is doing its best,” Rosoff said. “This is the trouble when you have regulatory agencies make demands. They sometimes don’t understand what’s inherent in the demand. Microsoft can’t create these documents overnight.”

Forging Ahead

The merits of the 2004 Decision are being reviewed by the European Court of First Instance. While Microsoft contests the ruling through the judicial process, Wednesday’s announcement underscores the company’s resolve to satisfy the Commission’s demands in the meantime.

Microsoft vowed to continue to move forward to prepare its response to the December Statement of Objections, which is now due on February 15.

“Realizing it will take a while to get these documents where the EC wants them, Microsoft decided to buy a little bit of time by releasing the source code while it continues to work on the documentation,” Rosoff said. “I think they are going to have to continue improving that documentation.”

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