Microsoft has finally blinked in its three-year stare-out contest with the European Commission. Today the firm said it would not launch another appeal against the landmark €497m anti-trust fine slapped on it in 2004. The vanquished vendor will not attempt to overturn the European Court of First Instance's September verdict. It' …
"Kroes predicted that the agreement would profoundly affect the software industry for years to come."
Indeed - given we're already stuck with the *next* boondoggle to come out of Redmond, and the pittance of a fine they may pay in the end (if ever - they're masters at dragging their feet until regulators give up) will soon be recouped out of the "revised" royalty/licensing fees they're going to foist on developers.
In the meantime the only consumer choice is whether they want or don't want the Aero interface - and the only "flourishing and competitive environment" MS talks about will be Windows developers braining other Windows developers over who will pay their licensing fee the first to get their product to market.
Awesome. One might almost say, nothing has changed except for the paperwork.
So essentially nothing
So essentially they've given up nothing, companies will still be required to sign contracts accepting some bullshit fake patent claim to get the documentation they need.
The fine they had no chance of overturning anyway.
Wow, way to cave in to US pressure Kroes.
MS finally folded...
...when the cost of chairs destroyed in those really constructive meetings threatened to exceed the cost of the fine...
It's really pocket change though isn't it? The total fine only amounts to what, 1 day's profit from their illegal enterprise? And what does that Euro 10,000 get you anyway? The same level of "useful" documentation as, say, the OOXML proposal? Something 6000 pages long and utterly, completely useless for implementation purposes?
Microsoft may have lost this battle, but the war against their illegal and predatory practices is far, FAR from over.
Here in the UK we don't have Software Patents. So why the hell should we have to pay some sort of ongoing tribute for something we don't recognise?
Sounds to me like Microsoft have managed to screw the EU commission. They've abused their position for years, they can still charge a significant amount of money for something that most companies are happy to let people have and the total fine they have to pay is peanuts, especially given Bill Gates odd understanding of how exchange rates work when it comes to EU pricing of their products.
Since EU law specifically states that software is outside the scope of patentability, what royalties exactly are Microsoft hoping to collect?
Let's hope that some or other Open Source outfit is going to solicit donations, buy a copy of the relevant standards and make them available to everyone. I'd drop a tenner in that hat in a heartbeat.
No, nothing's new, is it? I'd really hoped, just then, that Microsoft did the right thing. But the docs aren't freely available because Microsoft has unstated patent applications covering it. Which means that anyone with a grain of honour in his soul will not trouble to implement this in OSS. Except those who have the money and who, like as not, are already in bed with M$. So reverse-engineering is still inevitable despite the availability of fully-specified interfaces you've got to sign your blood on and swear never to reveal to others.
Thanks a lot, EC! You've done very well for us all. :-(
Interesting use of the word 'continue'
"and will continue to work closely with the commission"
surely that should read "and will start to work closely with the commission"...
Yet they never learn.
What new "feature" will MS add to their OS for free, and face exactly the same court case again. I'm starting a pool, who wants to place a bet?
And what about bundling Windows with all new computers? Why makers cannot offer computers without Windows? All because of increased licenses from Redmond? Isn't it the worst form of monopolism?
I think EU should look at it finally and do something about it!
The Seventh Heaven View of Venus.
Wow....... Common Sense for Mutual Benefit. Bravo.
That should herald a New Era with a Mad Bad Boy all growed up into AI Beta Man. And just think of all the Pleasures which await the Best of them in the Perfumed Garden. And that will Really sort them out, QuITe Naturally.:-)
Re: Yet they never learn.
"What new "feature" will MS add to their OS for free, and face exactly the same court case again. I'm starting a pool, who wants to place a bet?"
A virtual machine host, that works much better at hosting Windows than VmWare, for some reason. They could even call it Dynamic OS, or DOS for short.
$64 billion question?
"... for some reason"
Now there is a loded question, if ever there was one, Ken?
I love the way the press reports it ..
Thankfully El Reg hasn't reported this decision as "Microsoft AGREES to pay fine" (BBC did) - why do some people behave like it's normal for Microsoft to simply disobey a direct Court order of the country/region it wants to operate in?
Fact of the matter is, they were found in breach, they were ordered to pay up and in the end discovered that their normal tried and trusted strategies didn't quite work (lobby, get people sacked, bribe officials, but other companies to muddy the waters etc - the MO never changes).
I'm sure they will write off as any other cost of business, but this is a far heavier amount (especially vs the DoJ discount bargain), and the risks of being found again in breach is that the baseline is thus set at a sensible level (read: this stung, the next violation is going to HURT).
Oh FFS !
Did ANY of the previous commenters bother to go and read the full text of the announcement ? No, I thought not or you wouldn't have posted the doom laden crap comments you did. For those who can't click on a link and read ...
>>> I told Microsoft that it had to make interoperability information available to open source developers. Microsoft will now do so, with licensing terms that allow every recipient of the resulting software to copy, modify and redistribute it in accordance with the open source business model.
Seems pretty clear enough to me - available on a no strings attached basis.
>>> I told Microsoft that it should give legal security to programmers who help to develop open source software and confine its patent disputes to commercial software distributors and end users. Microsoft will now pledge to do so.
OK, from a 'purity' viewpoint it's a problem, but from a practical viewpoint, an agreement that OSS developers need not fear claims related to patent infringement. Also, as I read it (it's not too clear), commercial developers can either pay the per-license royalty to cover the patents claimed to apply, OR to pay the one-off charge and pay no royalties if they dispute the validity or relevance of the patents. In the latter case, I can see legal action being rather tricky - MS having accepted a one-off fee and then claiming patent infringement on what it's licensed.
And as to Microsoft simply drawing a line and changing the protocols - that's covered too !
>>> That said, Microsoft’s obligation to document its protocols is an ongoing one – the documentation needs to be maintained as its products evolve, and new issues may arise once it is being used by developers.
So there is still a certain amount of risk and/or cost for commercial vendors, but on OSS it's a complete and utter slap in the face for Microsoft who now have no (legal) way to impede OSS projects like Samba from complete interoperability.
Years down the road?
Let's say microsoft goes down hill, do they still have to abide? If open source company A "wins" the market share, yet open source company "B" cant use company A's protocol, is that fair? Can Microsoft have a case if they can't connect with Company A's protocol, but Company A's protocol has source to Microsoft's protocol?
Re: Oh FFS !
SImon, the problem here is that the specifications themselves are royalty on claim of patents. That's the equivalent to, I don't know, charging you for the use of an RFC because it has some sort of company secret in it, but giving everyone who receives any code you write to implement that RFC safety and security and the permission to redistribute your code. I either have to use your code or pseudo-reverse-engineer it in order to derive the original specification, all because Microsoft weren't gracious enough to just do the right thing and give this away under terms suitable for use only by OSS developers (on which, as you say, there is in any case too much emphasis). I really don't see this as anything more than squeezing the last drop of cash out of the situation. Having said that I'll probably donate to the hat that supports the development of an open library for utilising these specifications for other projects' uses.
So yeah, while I'm happy with a bit of patent protection, the victory has more of a precedent rather than practical value, and I think we should watch out. For starters, the patents covered aren't even known!
It should be free!
The $10,000 one off payment or 0.4% royalty payment appears to be a royalty claim on patents. Well, as someone has pointed out, patents are not applicable in UK law and across Europe so why should anyone pay.
Also, when the patents were examined (or the 'intellectual property', you choose!) they were supposedly found to be of little worth.
Since most of the protocols they will license was built off other peoples technology, where Microsoft just hacked on proprietary features to lock developers out in a bid to control the market, Microsoft should make the protocol information available for free.
Getting around it
If I were to make a GPL component and not sell it, what's to stop Red Hat (et al) from using my code? 0.4% of my revenue is nil and the GPL means that anyone else can implement under the GPL the code with no requirement other than the GPL.
I don't get it
As a consumer, why would I want to pay $20-$30 extra for a utility/app when I can get a decent enough one free with my OS (which I have to have anyway).
Personally I hope MS continues to bundle more free cool stuff with their OS -- as optional installs of course. If competitors don't like it then too bad -- make something I consider much better than what I can get with my OS and I may even buy your product. It's called a free consumer market. And I don't give a toss about one huge well-organised company killing off the small fish as long as it benefits me the consumer.
MS should just rebrand their OS as "Windows Software Suite" and then they could tell all the jealous little twerps who can't code & market a decent enough product to compete to sod off.
I hope the main Linux brand companies go this route too. I don't want to spend hours hunting around the net for open source stuff and compiling or RPM'ing it in just to achieve some basic computer facilities -- media playback, graphics & sound drivers, firewall, anti-virus etc.
Can I have my network back now, Mister?
At least we won't all have to pay the 10k€. All we need to do is chip in a few quid to the Samba developers and we can get a working mixed network back again sometime soon hopefully. Mine broke when I added an XP machine and had to run the Wizard on my 98 machines - which of course knackered their ability to see the SMB Domain Server on my Linux box. I have been patiently living with FTP and sneakernet ever since, waiting for this issue to be resolved. It's very hard to prove damages when a sole-trading entrepreneur has his projects hobbled in this way.
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