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Microsoft eases antitrust concerns

Will provide source code and training

A Microsoft decision to provide licensees with substantially increased access to the source code for its software products, as well as additional assistance aimed at making it easier for their software to be used with Microsoft products, has helped ease US concerns raised last month, according to court documents filed yesterday.

The company told US and EU (European Union) officials it was willing to license its Windows server source code at no additional cost to members of MCPP, the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program, and give them added assistance through online and in-person training in the use of the code.

The documents, which include reports from US officials and Microsoft, were filed yesterday as part of ongoing efforts to ensure Microsoft complies with the final judgements of a US antitrust case against it, which are contained in a May 2003 court order.

The company's decision to expand its assistance to licensees came in part from concerns filed by US officials in January, according to the documents. In the 23 January filing, officials said Microsoft needed to significantly expand the resources devoted to responding to issues generated by a US technical committee as quickly as possible.

"Microsoft’s plan – to make Windows server source code available to licensees to assist their development efforts, and to offer licensees both training and technical support – is responsive to plaintiffs' concerns," officials wrote in the court documents.

The software giant also reported that two additional firms, Hitachi and ONStor, have become licensees under MCPP, bringing the total number to 25. Hitachi and ONStor will be able to use the licence to create file server appliance products, Microsoft said in the filing. There are 12 licensees shipping products under MCPP.

In addition to the 25 licensees, Cisco has taken advantage of the royalty-free protocol licence offered through the Microsoft Developer Network, bringing the total number of royalty-free licensees to three.

Meanwhile, US officials are looking at a complaint about Microsoft's forthcoming Vista OS (operating system) regarding its boot-up features, as well as several other concerns, according to court documents also filed yesterday.

The main complaint involves the ability of PC makers to customise a user's experience on their first boot-up with the new OS. Of particular interest is a new interface called the 'Welcome Center' that offers users various setup options and commercial offers.

Several other concerns have been raised by industry members regarding aspects of Windows Vista, but officials handling the compliance issues have not yet reached any conclusion as to the merits of those complaints, according to the documents.

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