Friday, May 05, 2006

Antitrust in Europe

I got a few chuckles this morning reading an article in the Wall Street Journal on Microsoft's problems with the European Commission on documenting its server protocols. The amusing part is that Microsoft has finally run into an opponent that it cannot coerce, wheedle, smokescreen, bully, blackmail, or bribe, and yet it cannot bring itself to do the one thing which would get it out of the situation -- honestly comply with the EC directive.

To date, Microsoft has created a "manual" that is some 12,000 pages long. That, by itself, would be an unmanageable monster, however, every outside expert that has looked at the document to date has said it's so much unorganized gibberish. This was the opinion of the engineers from Sun, Novell, and RedHat that first looked at the document, and the opinion confirmed by a computer scientest chosen from a Microsoft-provided list.

Then, they tried political pressure (the U.S. government has "warned" the EC not to be "unfair", whatever that means), and doing an end-run through the U.S. court system (all three courts refused, saying it was outside their jurisdiction).

The problem for Microsoft is that the EU has figured out it has no real interest in making Microsoft happy. Europe's native software industry is oriented around Linux, applications, and embedded devices, and an increasingly nationalistic Europe sees little distinction between MS and the U.S. government. Both of them you deal with, because they're too big to ignore, but you don't have to like them.

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