ECIS: Microsoft antitrust ruling should apply to all areas

The Microsoft antitrust case has received a lot of attention from the press, as you could also see in JJ’s press review. And yesterday, David Gow published an excellent piece on the case in UK’s Guardian, titled ‘A question of anti-trust‘. If you can only read one article about this case, make it this one: It is contains a good analysis and even includes potential dangers for democracy in a digital age.

This morning, European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) filed a complaint with the European Commission against a range of Microsoft business practices that threaten to deny enterprises and individual consumers real choice among competing software products. In case you wish to understand the economic interests behind this complaint, current ECIS members are: Corel, IBM, Linspire, Nokia, Opera, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems.

You may notice that ECIS contains several of the companies that lost its interest in the case after reaching individual agreements and monetary settlements with Microsoft directly, so this may seem contradictory, but indeed the ECIS complaint builds on the case and goes beyond it:

     The ECIS complaint asks Europe's antitrust authority to put an end to
    practices that reinforce Microsoft's existing monopolies and extend
    its market dominance into a range of existing and pre-announced future
    product areas, beyond the two that were the focus of the Commission's
    2004 Decision.


In other words: ECIS asks to take the antitrust decision of the European Commission and apply it also to other areas in which Microsoft is leveraging its monopoly in market-hostile ways.

One might think it important enough that interoperability of desktops and servers, the central component of the case, affects all major users of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), such as almost all companies with more than two employees, governments, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs.

In fact, the ECIS complaint demonstrates that the significance is even greater: This is the most successful antitrust case against Microsoft to date, and it has the potential to establish future rules of what is acceptable behaviour in the IT industry, and what is not.

That is why FSFE has been working on this case for many years, from the original investigation, over the 2004 decision, to the European Court case where it is now one of two remaining original third parties on the side of the European Commission. In the best Free Software tradition, it has done so in a joint work force with the Samba Team, which has provided the technical expertise about Microsoft Desktop and Server interaction.

I only hope that more companies will help us defending their interests in this — to this date, FSFE has received virtually no support for this case from the industry. Consequently, all the credit belongs to the Free Software community, including in particular the Fellows of the FSFE.

If you wish to help, join now.

update: inserted "original" for clarity in the history of FSFE’s work, as indeed two new parties (ECIS and VideoBanner) joined later in the case, at the same time some applications to support Microsoft were denied.

About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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