The EU Unhooks Microsoft

A European ruling will force the software giant to reveal some of its deepest secrets.

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Microsoft must unbundle its Media Player from Windows, according to a European Union ruling Monday, a decision that perhaps helps a few of its competitors in Europe. A second, more obscure part of the EU court ruling is certain to have impact worldwide—that the EU would also force Microsoft to reveal secrets hidden in the operating system.

Secrets out of the bag don't recognize national borders.

Microsoft must explain to competitors how they can fully connect to Windows with their networking software, according to the ruling by an EU court. Microsoft until now has refused to share some details of linking to Windows, arguing that they would allow competitors to essentially clone key functions of the operating system, and thus steal Microsoft's intellectual property. The EU court said Microsoft wasn't being asked to give up code, just specifications that would put networking competitors on an equal playing field.

Networking is no longer just a business product. We're increasingly using it at home, and Microsoft is fighting to make Windows the center of our media networks. Also, we're running home computers ever more linked to services on the Internet. Maybe they will get more robust with new hooks into Windows.

Unbundling the Media Player from Windows is notable, and we at home can more easily understand how it might benefit a few companies like RealNetworks and Apple that offer competing software. But untold numbers of competitors will feast on the beans to be spilled about Windows networking.

European Union

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