Antitrust hearing, day 3: Rebuttal by the European Commission

After lunch on day 3, the European Commission applied a very strong ventilator to the smoke screen thrown up by Microsoft in the morning, and the picture that emerged from this was rather clear. Firstly, interoperability is not a binary issue, there can be different degrees of interoperability. Indeed it should be said that even comparatively small inconveniences like adding a small piece of client software for interoperability can create significant economic disadvantages, entirely destroying business models.

Reality is worse, though: Although Microsoft made claims that competitors could easily interoperate with them through open protocols such as LDAP, its Active Directory Service does not expose user logins and passwords through LDAP. Not being able to log on might be considered more than a slight inconvenience. Making proprietary modifications to the open Kerberos protocol is another strategy with which Microsoft has arbitrarily created obstacles.

That Centrify now allows to move other non-Microsoft systems to integrate into that Microsoft-controlled world did not exactly appeal to anyone in the Commission, either. It would obviously make the situation worse, not better — which may be why Gartner Group is estimating 90% Active Directory deployment by 2010.

Indeed, the Commission clarified that protocol specification consist of syntax, sequence, semantics and meaning and disassembled the “attack of the clones” depicted by Microsoft. Not every program that has similar functionality is a clone of another piece of software. Indeed, if this were true, Microsoft Windows would be a clone of Apple MacOS, Novell Netware, BSD and others.

Since Microsoft made vast claims to patents, the Commission was also good to point out that the European Patent Convention (EPC) does not allow business method patents. Unfortunately they did not also refer to article 52, which also precludes software patents, but rather made the opposite point in terms of not having ever used those patents. It appears they still do not realise that software patents are fundamentally at odds with the idea of competition in the information technology industry.

Since the presentation took apart almost all statements made by Microsoft step by step, it lasted for some time — somewhere around four hours in total which I am neither willing nor capable to explain in detail. So as one last piece from the presentation, let me share with you the updated numbers of Novo Nordisk, which Microsoft referred to as a healthy heterogenous setup in their morning presentation:

     Windows installed on 100% User / Domain Administration 100% E-mail 95% File servers 

This does not need further comment, does it?

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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