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Red Hat and EU Respond to Microsoft's Interoperability Announcement

Red Hat and EU Respond to Microsoft's Interoperability Announcement

by , 12:55 PM EST, February 22nd, 2008

Microsoft has made an announcement about future standards support, but Red Hat, in a response posted Thursday, would like to see Microsoft instead make a concrete announcement in support of existing ISO-approved, cross-platform standards next week in Geneva. Meanwhile, the European Union said they will monitor whether the principles announced by Microsoft are, in fact, implemented.

In its response, Red Hat Executive Vice President and General Counsel Michael Cunningham said, "Red Hat regards this most recent announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism. Three commitments by Microsoft would show that it really means what it is announcing today:

"Commit to open standards: Rather than pushing forward its proprietary, Windows-based formats for document processing, OOXML, Microsoft should embrace the existing ISO-approved, cross-platform industry standard for document processing, Open Document Format (ODF) at the International Standards Organization’s meeting next week in Geneva. Microsoft, please demonstrate implementation of an existing international open standard now rather than make press announcements about intentions of future standards support.

"Commit to interoperability with open source: Instead of offering a patent license for its protocol information on the basis of licensing arrangements it knows are incompatible with the GPL – the world’s most widely used open source software license – Microsoft should extend its Open Specification Promise to all of the interoperability information that it is announcing today will be made available. The Open Specification Promise already covers many Microsoft products that do not have monopoly market positions. If Microsoft were truly committed to fostering openness and preventing customer lock-in, it would extend this promise to the protocol and interface information it intends to disclose today. There is no explanation for refusing to extend the Open Specification Promise to “high-volume” products, other than a continued intention on Microsoft’s part to lock customers into its monopoly products, and lock out competitors through patent threats.

"Commit to competition on a level playing field: Microsoft’s announcement today appears carefully crafted to foreclose competition from the open source community. How else can you explain a “promise not to sue open source developers” as long as they develop and distribute only*/ “non-commercial” implementations of interoperable products? This is simply disingenuous. The only hope for reintroducing competition to the monopoly markets Microsoft now controls – Windows, Office, etc. – is through commercial distributions of competitive open source software products."

The European Union also responded on Thursday to the Microsoft announcement and said, in part, "the Commission notes that today's announcement follows at least four similar statements by Microsoft in the past on the importance of interoperability.... In the course of its ongoing interoperability investigation, the Commission will therefore verify whether Microsoft is complying with EU antitrust rules, whether the principles announced today would end any infringement were they implemented in practice, and whether or not the principles announced today are in fact implemented in practice."

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