Microsoft 'opens up' its products but Brussels remains sceptical

Microsoft, the American software giant, failed yesterday to head off a major confrontation with the Euro-pean Commission despite unveiling a shift in policy it claimed would bring it fully into line with European Union laws.

The company said it would provide free or cheap access to the majority of the code underlying its most popular applications, addressing concerns that its size and scale has enabled it to engage in monopolistic practices.

However, the Commission said Microsoft's announcement did not directly address one of its chief concerns about the company's business practices – that it has previously linked products together, effectively stifling competition by requiring customers using Micro-soft operating systems to buy other products from it rather than rival software producers. The Commission also expressed scepticism about Microsoft's intentions, warning that the software giant had made similar statements of intent in the past. "This announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past," a spokesman said.

"The Commission notes that today's announcement follows at least four similar statements by Microsoft in the past on the importance of interoperability."

However, Microsoft said its change of policy would enable other software producers to develop products that worked in tandem with its packages, including versions of Windows such as Vista, and Office products such as Word and Excel.

In theory, this should give consumers more choice, enabling them to use rival software companies' products whether or not they had also installed Microsoft packages. Microsoft promised to immediately begin publishing more than 30,000 pages of documentation of the details of its software on its website. The company said it would make it clear which code it held patents on and offer rivals licenses at low rates. Non-patented protocols will be freely available.

Steve Ballmer, Micro-soft's chief executive officer, des-cribed the move as "an important step and significant change" and promised to supply the Commission with full details of how it intended to comply with rulings against it. "For the past 33 years, we have shared a lot of information with hundreds of thousands of providers , but today's announcement represents even greater transparency," he said. "Our goal is to promote greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for customers and developers by making our products more open."

Microsoft is under particular pressure from Euro-pean regulators after a ruling against it on product tying last September from the European Court of First Instance. The Commission subsequently launched two formal competition investigations into the company. It has also been fined €778m (£587m) in recent years.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review