Microsoft Volunteers Free, Unlimited Technical Support to Licensees of European Commission’s Protocol Program

BRUSSELS, Belgium — March 21, 2006— Microsoft Corporation today announced that it will voluntarily offer free, unlimited technical support to licensees of the European Commission’s Workgroup Server Protocol Program. Microsoft will also now provide on-site assistance to licensees to further help facilitate the development process. Microsoft also confirmed that it has submitted a work plan to the Monitoring Trustee detailing a number of projects to enhance the Program’s technical documentation.

The company is taking these voluntary actions in order to further address issues raised by the European Commission’s December 22, 2005 Statement of Objections and additional points submitted by the Commission to Microsoft in a letter on March 10, 2006. These criticized the quality and scope of the 12,000 pages of technical documentation the company had made available to enable licensees to implement certain Windows Server communications protocols.

“Although five European computer science professors have already confirmed that our documentation meets or exceeds industry standards, we are committed to doing everything in our power to address the Commission’s concerns,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “These new documentation projects, together with free and unlimited technical support and access to Windows source code, will ensure that our competitors have all the assistance they need to make this Program effective.”

Unlimited technical support will be provided at no charge, allowing potential licensees to get as much assistance as necessary from experienced Microsoft professionals who can address implementation issues as they arise. Microsoft previously offered to provide up to 500 hours of free technical support.

In addition to unlimited technical support, Microsoft is further augmenting the program by offering on-site assistance to licensees. A Microsoft Technical Assistance Manager will now be available, if desired, to come to licensees’ places of business to work side by side with licensees to help resolve implementation issues.

Microsoft also pledged to continue making Windows source code available as a reference implementation and to continue working with the Commission’s technical advisors and industry representatives to constantly improve the technical documentation.

“The improvement of documentation for complex technology inevitably requires a cooperative process with input from a variety of users,” said Smith. “As we underscored when we offered in January to provide access to Windows source code, we are committed to taking every possible step to satisfy the Commission’s requirements.”

As evidence of its ongoing commitment, the company has submitted a work plan to the Monitoring Trustee outlining a number of changes the company will be making to the documentation to enhance usability and provide greater clarity to licensees, including:

  • Adding to the introduction a specific discussion of the relationship between the Technical Documentation and standards-body materials and other existing art, as well as text describing the anticipated ways in which the technical documentation would be used by a licensee.

  • Adding more consistent navigation indicators to the technical documentation.

  • Adding more illustrations with a consistent look and feel. In each instance where an illustration is indicated under the methodology, Microsoft will determine and develop the graphical content that best supplements the existing technical documentation.

Today’s voluntary actions are the latest in a series of steps Microsoft has taken to address the Commission’s concerns over the technical documentation. The Company has devoted more than 30,000 hours to develop extensive documentation that is indexed and searchable, allowing Microsoft’s competitors to access the specifications they need to build products that implement Microsoft’s protocols. Microsoft’s technical documentation has been reviewed by two groups of European academic experts from the University College in London and Technische Universitat in Munich who independently reached the same conclusion: Microsoft has provided the European Commission with quality technical documentation that meets or exceeds industry standards.

In January, Microsoft offered a license to the company’s Window Server source code to provide software developers the most precise and authoritative description possible of the Windows protocol technologies. With it, licensees will be to view the Windows source code in order to help better understand how to implement the documentation in their own products.

While Microsoft is appealing the Commission’s 2004 Decision, the company is committed to meeting all compliance requirements specified by the European Commission.

To date, no company has signed up for a license for the Commission’s program.

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