Microsoft offers free tech support to placate EC

Microsoft Corp. will offer free and unlimited technical support to those who license its workgroup server protocols, its latest move to satisfy the European Commission that Microsoft is complying with the 2004 antitrust ruling against the company.

Microsoft had previously offered 500 hours of technical support but said licensees can now get unlimited support as well as on-site assistance. Microsoft changed the offer voluntarily, said Tom Brookes, a company spokesman.

The Commission’s response was guarded, although it called the proposal a “constructive” one.

Microsoft and the Commission have been quarreling over whether the company has complied with the terms of the protocol licensing requirement, which is intended to create a more level playing field in the workgroup server market.

No companies have licensed the server protocols so far, but several have accepted “evaluation” licenses, Brookes said.

Microsoft says the 12,000 pages of related documentation that it has submitted provide ample information for companies to use its protocols. The Commission has said the documentation is insufficient and too confusing to let other companies develop server products that work smoothly with Windows.

On Wednesday it reiterated its position that the documentation Microsoft provided so far is insufficient. Additional tech support is only helpful when the documentation has “reached a certain quality standard,” it said.

“Nevertheless, at first sight this seems to be a constructive proposal as Microsoft will naturally be well placed to answer questions from licensees on specific points of the documentation,” the Commission said.

The Commission sent a statement of objections to Microsoft in December over the documentation and threatened to fine the company

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