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Neelie Kroes, the European Union competition commissioner, on Thursday questioned the value of Microsoft’s latest concession in its long-running antitrust battle with Brussels, suggesting that the US software group still faces a uphill struggle to resolve the confrontation.

Microsoft offered on Wednesday to license an important part of the Windows source code in an attempt to ensure it complies with a Commission antitrust ruling from March 2004. A key element is the order to share more information about the operating system with rivals.

Brussels believes Microsoft has so far refused to offer adequate information – but has not asked the group to release its source code, the programming instructions at the core of Windows.

Microsoft argued that by releasing parts of the source code it was making available the “ultimate documentation” that would enable other software developers to design products that function smoothly with Windows – an important goal of the Commission’s ruling.

But Ms Kroes, in an interview with Reuters, said on Thursday: “Normally speaking, the source code is not the ultimate documentation of anything, which is precisely the reason why programmers are required to provide comprehensive documentation to go along with their source code.”

Her staff was analysing whether the offer would resolve the latest stand-off and remove the threat of fines of up to €2m ($2.4m) a day, Reuters said.

Ms Kroes’s comment appeared to confirm the reaction of several Microsoft rivals to the group’s latest offer. They argued that
the Windows source code would not in itself help developers to design interoperable products. They want the group to comply strictly with the Commission’s March 2004 ruling, which orders Microsoft to draw up detailed technical information that tells other groups how to make their products interoperable.

But Microsoft insisted its offer to license the source code – coupled with its other concessions – would comply with the ruling.

Horacio Gutierrez, the group’s general counsel for Europe, on Thursday said Microsoft welcomed the Commission’s statement that it would seriously consider the offer to license Windows source code to competitors.

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