With EU browser case dropped, Microsoft seeks trust, interoperability

Microsoft Wednesday said it hopes that the resolution of its browser dispute with the EU will lead to the building of more trust and to more interoperability among software products.

Putting a spin on the news that the EU had dropped its anti-trust suit charging the software giant with monopoly abuse for tying its browser to the Windows operating system, Microsoft's Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement that the company was pleased with the "resolution of several longstanding competition law issues in Europe. We look forward to building on the dialogue and trust that has been established between Microsoft and the Commission and to extending our industry leadership on interoperability."

Smith called the resolution an important day and a major step forward, and said "we look forward to building a new foundation for the future in Europe."

Microsoft has been battling the EU over the browser issue since January, but its dealings with the EU dates back to anti-competitive charges leveled in 1993 around licensing issues.

Smith acknowledged that Microsoft was heading in a direction that would require significant change within the company that he said would resolve "future competition law concerns."

The EU and Microsoft, however, won't part ways just yet. In mid-2010, Microsoft will begin regular reports to the EU on the progression of its rollout of a browser choice screen. In addition, the EU can review and evaluate the browser deal at the end of 2011.

In addition to offering browser choice, Smith said a second measure by Microsoft would be a "public undertaking" that covers interoperability with Microsoft products. Those products include Windows, Windows Server, Office, Exchange and SharePoint.

Smith characterized the public undertaking as "the most comprehensive commitment to the promotion of interoperability in the history of the software industry."

With Office, Microsoft in August made a proposal to the EU to include a similar ballot screen that is going into Internet Explorer. The Office ballot screen would allow European users of Office 2010 to select a default file format from a number of choices. Office 2010 is slated to ship in the middle of next year.

Smith also said Microsoft would ensure everyone, including open source developers, will have access to technical documentation to assist in building software that works well with Microsoft software.

In addition, he said "Microsoft will also support certain industry standards in its products and fully document how these standards are supported. Microsoft will make available legally-binding warranties that will be offered to third parties." He did not list any of the industry standards.

Smith said Microsoft's commitment to interoperability aligns with policies set forth by the European Commission in 2008.

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This story, "With EU browser case dropped, Microsoft seeks trust, interoperability," was originally published at NetworkWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in software at Network World.

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