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Old 21st February 2008, 04:39 PM
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Microsoft to open up key software blueprints

REDMOND, Washington (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) said on Thursday it would make key technology elements of some of its best-selling software widely available to boost interoperability with its competitors and customers. To make connecting with third-party software easier, Microsoft will publish on its Web site key software blueprints, known as application program interfaces, pertaining to its high-volume products used by other Microsoft merchandise.

In September, a European Union court upheld a landmark ruling that the world's biggest software maker had abused its dominant market position. The court in September endorsed Commission sanctions against Microsoft for tying together software and its refusal to give rival makers of office computer servers information to allow their products to work smoothly with Windows. The court also said Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft was unjustified in tying new applications -- or software programs -- to its Windows operating system in a way that squeezed out rivals and harmed consumer choice. Microsoft also pledged on Thursday not to sue open-source developers for development or noncommercial distribution of those software blueprints.

"We are taking responsibility for implementing the principles in the interoperability portion of the (September) decision across all of Microsoft's high-volume products," said Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith. "We will take additional steps in the coming weeks to address the remaining portion of the ... decision." In January, the European Commission launched new antitrust investigations into Microsoft to see whether the company broke competition rules to help its Web browser and its Office and Outlook products.
Microsoft said the moves announced on Thursday apply to its following products: Microsoft Vista, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007 and Office SharePoint Server 2007, as well as all future versions of the same products.

The European Commission said Microsoft's announcement did not resolve allegations of product tying and the Commission would try to verify the pledges by the company. "This announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past," the EU said in a statement. Microsoft shares rose 8 cents to $28.30 in early afternoon trading on Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Duncan Martell in San Francisco and Daisuke Wakabayashi in Seattle; editing by John Wallace/Andre Grenon)
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