Microsoft tries to comply with EU requirements

By EDRi · October 21, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Microsoft versucht, die EU-Auflagen zu erfüllen |]

After having long criticised and penalised Microsoft for its
anti-competitive practices, the European Union seems to be now at the point
of trying to close up the battle with the company after Microsoft has made a
new offer to give its customers access to a wider range of web browsers
through its Windows operating system and to share information with its

“The commission will formally market test proposals made by Microsoft to
address concerns regarding the tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows PC
operating system,” said the EU’s competition commissioner Neelie Kroes who
also expressed the idea that a at a preliminary view it appears that
“Microsoft’s commitments would indeed address our concerns.”

Microsoft’s last proposal in July to give a choice screen that would allow
consumers to pick from several browsers was not considered good enough and
the European Commission (EC) asked for improvements. After intense
discussions with the EC and with feedback from the industry, the present
proposal gives a choice of 12 browsers and also addresses the other topic of
concern, interoperability, by offering an exchange of information with other
software companies.

However, the new proposal is not considered as good by everybody. FSFE (Free
Software Foundation Europe) believes that, being close to the end of her
mandate, Ms Kroes is rushing in closing up a deal with Microsoft that serves
the company and not the EU.

FSFE argues that the solution proposed by Microsoft is tricky as the
browsers offered as alternative are not pre-installed but must be
downloaded. As many time downloading may be slow or even failing, depending
on the connection, many people will prefer to just use Microsoft Internet
Explorer (IE) as it will be much easier. In the foundation’s opinion,
Microsoft should pre-install alternative browsers and “any browser that the
user chooses needs to be integrated into the Windows operating system to the
same degree that IE is integrated today.” FSFE also believes that the
settlement between the EC and Microsoft should not be limited to Europe, as
the company proposed, but apply globally.

As regarding the interoperability, the foundation argues that what is
Microsoft offering now is only the interoperability information that is
impossible to use in Free Software. What FSFE considers necessary is “a
binding commitment from Microsoft to provide and update interoperability
information on terms that are compatible with Free Software. This has to be
a legally binding document, and needs to include guarantees as well as clear
remedies if Microsoft fails to comply.”

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems also consider the
settlement “does not appear to deal with the inadequacies of Microsoft’s
standards compliance, unfair pricing practices or other concerns related to
patent abuse or standards manipulation”.

Microsoft’s present proposal will be marked tested for one month period
during which the industry and consumers may submit suggestions for further
changes. Following the trial month, the Commission may decide to make
Microsoft’s commitment legally binding for five years and in that case,
during this period, no action will be brought against Microsoft related to

In the meantime, the company is close to releasing in Europe its new
browser – Windows 7 – that launches on 22 October worldwide. But not without
In a recent press release, FSFE warns that “Microsoft’s latest operating
system, Windows 7, is currently shipping with a potentially serious defect.
Ahead of the product’s global launch on Thursday, Germany’s federal IT
security agency (BSI) has issued a warning about a high-risk vulnerability
in the SMB2 protocol. This can be exploited over the network to shut down a
computer with a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.”

EU approves new Microsoft pledges (7.10.2009)

FSFE to EC: Don’t waste an opportunity with a hasty deal (28.09.2009)

Antitrust: Commission welcomes new Microsoft proposals on Microsoft Internet
Explorer and Interoperability (24.07.2009)

Microsoft browser battle draws to a close (8.10.2009)

Microsoft and Europe Near Browser Truce (8.10.2009)

Windows 7 to hit consumers with known security problem (19.10.2009)

EDRi-gram: Windows 7 is launched without IE, but the Commission is not
pleased (17.06.2009)