Details Begin to Emerge on ECIS v. Microsoft EU Complaint

Late last week the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) filed a complaint in the EU against Microsoft, alleging anticompetitive behavior. That complaint was kept confidential, but additional details are now being (gradually) released.

There are a few more details beginning to emerge on the complaint that ECIS filed in the EU alleging anticompetitive behavior by Microsoft. As I reported on Saturday, one of the allegations is apparently that Microsoft’s refusal to support the OpenDocument Format (ODF) is part of this pattern of allegedly improper behavior.

Few details about the complaint have become public, however, and it appears that this may continue to be the case, according to an AP News Service story titled Microsoft Rivals File Broad EU Antitrust Complaint, written by Aoife White. Regular Groklaw contributor Marbux read this article more carefully than I did when I was skimming the first news stories, and pointed out to me that it states that ECIS has elected not to make the complaint public, citing “business confidentiality.”

The same article states that ECIS lawyer Thomas Vinje was being quite tightlipped, refusing to say even whether any allegations were made in connections with Vista, the next release of Office. Vinje did make it clear, however, that the purpose of the complaint is to apply additional pressure on Microsoft in Europe, where ECIS feels that the software vendor has not met its commitments under the 2004 EU:

The 2004 ruling primarily addressed media player and server software. Vinje said the complaint was wide-ranging, covering both existing and future products, but he would not elaborate beyond saying Office was among them.

“If Microsoft had complied with respect to the 2004 decision, we would not have to file a complaint,” he said. “They have replicated this behavior.”

Notwithstanding Vinje’s initial statements, he is already showing a few additional cards, as reported by Pamela Jones in a great update on multiple ODF issues at Groklaw. Pamela includes the following points from an article at Hispanic Business News (the link for some reason is not operating as of this writing, but perhaps will be repaired shortly) that Vinje revealed during a telephone interview:

*Office incompatibility. Microsoft has not done enough to make Office compatible with similar offerings, such as OpenOffice and StarOffice. Its PowerPoint slide software, for example, often fails to work smoothly in non-Microsoft programs, the complaint says.

*HTML replacement. Vista uses a technology called XAML that could give Microsoft an unfair advantage in Web page image displays. Microsoft may be maneuvering XAML to become a replacement for Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML, the standard software language used to create Web pages, Vinje said.

*Bundling anew. Vista will also come with Windows digital rights management (DRM) technology. DRM can be used to restrict access to business documents. Microsoft could unfairly popularize its DRM system in much the same way it came to dominate Web browsers and media players, by including it free with Windows PCs.

All in all, it sounds to me like a calculated PR campaign to gradually release additional information bit by bit, in order to keep the story in the news. If I’m right, we should learn more periodically as Vinje reveals more. Microsoft, I expect, will not respond, for the same reason, in order to limit the amount of attention that the complaint receives in the press.

I’ll continue to provide updates on the complaint, but I would urge you to read the whole story at Groklaw, as Pamela also a really great update on accessibility issues relating to Office, and current work being done on ODF to meet the needs of the community of the disabled.

[To browse all prior blog entries on this story, click here]

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