23 October 2007

I Was Wrong: Microsoft Won

I could feel it in my bones: the great victory of the EU over MS is a sham. Here's why.

Ex-steely Neelie - to be renamed wheeler-dealer Neelie - said as follows:

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.

And naively, I thought that meant what it said. Silly me. Reference to the rather low-profile EU FAQ clarifies:

Can open source software developers implement patented interoperability information?

Open source software developers use various “open source” licences to distribute their software. Some of these licences are incompatible with the patent licence offered by Microsoft. It is up to the commercial open source distributors to ensure that their software products do not infringe upon Microsoft’s patents. If they consider that one or more of Microsoft’s patents would apply to their software product, they can either design around these patents, challenge their validity or take a patent licence from Microsoft.

WTF?!? "Some of these licences are incompatible with the patent licence offered by Microsoft" - what, you mean like - choosing totally at random - the GNU GPL, as used by Samba, the only program that really cares about Microsoft's damn protocols?

And let's not forget that this "patented interoperability information" isn't even valid in Europe, because you can't patent software or business methods or whatever you want to call this stuff. And yet the EU has just passed a quick benedictus on the whole bloody thing.

This is a total and utter cop-out, and confirms my impression that politicians are a total waste of skin. But don't take my word for it, read those of someone who understands what's going on far better than me, Pieter Hintjens, of the FFII:

I've watched the emerging deal between the EU and Microsoft over the last weeks with increasing skepticism. From the moment the ECJ decided that Microsoft was indeed guilty of abusing its dominant position, it seemed clear that the vendor was negotiating its way through the wet paper bag that the EU - indeed the global - anti-trust policy has become.

The EU Commission steps down in 2009, and any appeal would have taken three years at least, damning Kroes and her department to eternal infamy as the anti-trust team who could not get Microsoft to back down.

Now Kroes can retire with glory, and Microsoft has to start behaving. But as the Las Vegas saying goes, every game has a patsy, and if you don't know who the patsy is, chances are it's you.

Microsoft pays the EU its fine, plus additional costs. It's perhaps a month or two of net profit for the vendor. The EU gets its paper victory. And what about open source?

Read it, and weep.

Update: More analysis from Groklaw seems to confirm the details.


Anonymous said...

Microsoft has the best lawyers and politicians money can buy. Why is anyone surprised?

Glyn Moody said...

Obviously I'm an incurable optimist.

Anonymous said...

And MS will get its money back in few months. Here in Slovenia they charge for W2003 server (if bought with HW) 650€ (or 799USD in US), but if I want to buy enterprise version the price is 2750€ (or 2200USD if you happend to live in America).

So Euro birocrates have just filled their pockets with some money, but the Euro industry will pay everything to America back.