Microsoft signed a rare deal with an open source software group on
Thursday, taking a step towards meeting sanctions imposed by the
European Commission for antitrust violations.
"This should inject competition into a market that had become
dominated by Microsoft through its abusive behavior," said Jonathan
Todd, a spokesman for the European Commission.
The Commission ruled in 2004 that Microsoft must provide
interconnection information letting rival server companies operate
as smoothly with Microsoft Windows desktop machines as Microsoft's
own server software.
The deal signed in the United States by the non-profit Protocol
Freedom Information Foundation was focused on helping Samba, a
non-profit maker of free, open source server software.
"The agreement allows us to keep Samba up to date with recent
changes in Microsoft Windows, and also helps other Free Software
projects that need to interoperate with Windows," said Andrew
Tridgell, creator of Samba.
The software involved is used for small groups in offices to sign-on
to the system and to print documents and is known as "work group
The Commission found in 2004 that Microsoft had refused to provide
needed interconnect information -- called protocols -- so that
Microsoft Windows desktops and servers made by its rivals would work
Microsoft's anti-competitive actions allowed its share of the server
market to skyrocket, and the market share of rival commercial server
companies wilted. They essentially left the market.
Microsoft had resisted complying with the ruling until the European
Union's second highest court backed the decision in September. As
Samba is not commercial and could not be forced out of the
marketplace it was still standing and able to benefit from the
The foundation paid Microsoft 10,000 euros and will get the
documentation it needs for all workgroup server protocols. Samba
must keep the information secret, but it can and will reveal source
codes to carry out the protocols.
Microsoft also has to tell the open source foundation any patents it
holds and it must keep them up to date on changes.