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EU Plans To Make Apple, Adobe and Others Open Up 389

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the jaws-of-life dept.
FlorianMueller writes "After pursuing Microsoft and Intel, European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes is now preparing an initiative that could have an even greater impact on the IT industry: a European interoperability law that will affect not only companies found dominant in a market but all 'significant' players. In a recent interview, Mrs. Kroes mentioned Apple. Nokia, RIM and Adobe would be other examples. All significant market players would have to provide access to interfaces and data formats, with pricing constraints considered 'likely' by the commissioner. Her objective: 'Any kind of IT product should be able to communicate with any type of service in the future.' The process may take a few years, but key decisions on the substance of the bill may already be made later this year."
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EU Plans To Make Apple, Adobe and Others Open Up

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  • by causality (777677) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:51PM (#32759138)
    Will the customers of Apple and Microsoft in the USA also benefit from openness and interoperability?
    • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:59PM (#32759262) Homepage

      The EU can't formally legislate on what companies are allowed to do in the US market, but in practical terms, we're talking about a global market for IT products and (especially) Internet-based services. If vendors wanted to apply a different set of openness and interoperability standards in the US than in the EU, they would have to make a lot of efforts to keep the markets separated. They can do it, such as by refusing connections from certain sets of IP addresses, but it would be a major hassle. If many vendors did so, lawmakers in the US would also take a closer look and might consider a similar initiative to benefit customers in their own country.

      Concerning Microsoft, the new law isn't even needed for them because they were already subjected to two antitrust proceedings in the EU on the grounds of being found dominant. More importantly, I'm not aware of them treating the US market any differently concerning interoperability with Samba than they treat the EU, even though it was only a European ruling.

      The biggest benefit of the envisioned new EU law is that similar rules would also have to be respected by companies who may just not be close enough to a monopolist so that antitrust law can deal with them, but who are powerful enough (such as Apple, Adobe etc.) that it's a problem if they get away with too closed an approach. I don't mean to blame those companies for simply trying to maximize shareholder value or for adhering to certain closed philosophies -- but if antitrust law can't change their behavior, a new instrument is needed.

    • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:07PM (#32759382)

      Apple's customers already do.

      Apple's formats:

      Audio: AAC (open)
      Video: H.264 (open)
      Mail: .mbox (open)
      Address book: vcard (open)
      Calendar: ics (open) (and Apple provide open source calendar server and address book servers based on WebDAV)
      Office apps: documented XML, similar to Open Office's format (very easy and non-DMCA/non-illegal etc to write a converter, lots of documentation on how the format works, unlike .docx for example)
      Screenshot format: png (open)
      Networking protocols: NFS, SMB, AFP, Bonjour (Zeroconf), FTP, sFTP
      HTML engine: Webkit (open)
      Disk drive format: HFS+ (open)
      OS core: Darwin, default shell is bash (open).
      Printing system: CUPS, postscript, PDF

      And while it't not open, Snow Leopard supports Exchange servers out of the box, if you want to play in a Windows environment.

      While the Apple experience is very vertically integrated, if you really want to move your data in or out, you can do so very easily. For example, if you decided that you wanted to change all your documents to Open Office formats you could do so. If you no longer wanted to use Mail.app for your email all your messages are in .mbox format and are easily portable to any other system (unlike, for example, Outlook's .pst format).

      I know it is heresy to even suggest it on slashdot, but as an Apple user you already enjoy a lot of openness and interoperability on the desktop. All the faff about the iPhone and iPad masks that, it seems.

      • screenshot default is .tiff. Which has been around in the print world for a really, really long time.

        • by jo_ham (604554)

          Command+Shift+3, I just pressed it. PNG file dropped on desktop.

          It's a png default in 10.5 and 10.6. In 10.4 I believe it was PDF briefly (since it just gave you whatever was in the Quartz Composer, since it all works via pdf behind the scenes), and early on in OS X's life it was tiff.

      • by paimin (656338)
        Now, now, don't go clogging up the Apple-hate wankfest with truth and facts. You'll give them all blueballs.
      • by WARM3CH (662028) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:06PM (#32760540)
        Well, I don't know what you mean by open. Do you mean open as in people can buy the license and even get the source? (e.g. H.264). Then I guess we live in an open world. Just as a comparison, here is the list of open formats on Windows:

        Audio: WMA (open)
        Video: WMV (open)
        Mail: .pst (open)
        Address book: .pst (open)
        Office apps: .docx, .xlsx, etc. (open)
        OS API: .NET (open)
        OS API: Win32 (open, shared source)
        OS core: NT (open, shared source)

        Hell, why stop there? Everything is open if you can buy it! Did you know that Google's search engine is also open? You just need to afford to buy Google Inc.
    • by kellyb9 (954229)

      Will the customers of Apple and Microsoft in the USA also benefit from openness and interoperability?

      No idea... but employees at Google will. (sorry couldn't help it)

  • Do the various "services" have to be able to communicate with any kind of "IT product"?

    • Do the various "services" have to be able to communicate with any kind of "IT product"?

      I haven't asked the commissioner but even without doing so I have no doubt that she meant this both ways. Interoperability goes both ways. The only problem is that obviously some companies in the industry want it as a one-way street: others have to open up, they stay closed. I can't imagine a piece of legislation would be one-way. Even if some companies tried to lobby for one-way rules, I don't think they'd get very far.

      What's more likely is that the rules may only apply to certain segments of the diverse I

  • So now cell phones will be the size of buildings so that they can support the massive array of antena and dishes so they can comunicate across the full radio spectrum. Still, it will be interesting having a cell phone that supports microwave OC3 communication.
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jim_v2000 (818799) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:59PM (#32759272)
    "Any kind of IT product should be able to communicate with any type of service in the future."

    What does that even mean?
    • by somaTh (1154199)

      They're just trying to make sure that when Skynet is launched, the GPS in your iPhone can activated so you can be properly located. You know, so they can replace your faulty antenna.

    • by Vahokif (1292866)
      It means you have to be able to post to Slashdot from your cheese grater
    • "Any kind of IT product should be able to communicate with any type of service in the future."

      What does that even mean?

      It means they either don't know what they are talking about or want wording sufficiently vague that they can make any demand they feel like. Probably a little of both in my opinion actually.

  • Frickin' great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sandor at the Zoo (98013) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:00PM (#32759276)
    When the government starts dictating requirements and the price, we're all screwed.
  • I have to admit that the thought of Android, Blackberry, etc apps on Apple's App Store would be interesting. ;-)

    --
    Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone. Classic Scientific and HEX functionality plus RPN, fractions, complex numbers, dotted quads, 32/64-bit signed/unsigned bitwise operations, UTF-8, IEEE FP decode, and RGB decode with color preview.
    • by TheKidWho (705796)

      That's never going to happen. If that is what they mean by interoperability...

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      So, I assume that if that is the case, the EU will also force Ford to sell Chrysler's cars on their lots, and force Nike to sell Adidas in the Nike store.

  • I'm against DRM in general, but the reality of my situation is that I have a ton of DRM'ed songs and videos bought from iTMS.

    I would willingly pay $30 to get a Linux-based player for this content.

    I wonder if that could happen under this plan?

    • I'm against DRM in general, but the reality of my situation is that I have a ton of DRM'ed songs and videos bought from iTMS.

      I would willingly pay $30 to get a Linux-based player for this content.

      I wonder if that could happen under this plan?

      My understanding is that the Apple iTunes Store can remove DRM from old 128 kbps purchases if you upgrade them to the 256 kbps versions currently being sold. I don't think Apple is selling songs with DRM any more.

      --
      Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone. Classic Scientific and HEX functionality plus RPN, fractions, complex numbers, dotted quads, 32/64-bit signed/unsigned bitwise operations, UTF-8, IEEE FP decode, and RGB decode with color preview.

      • I think it doesn't "remove" your old songs. It just loads a non-DRMed version and replaces the old one in your iTunes library. If you search the folders and directories, you will still find it. Or it seemed to me. To the user, it appears that the DRM was removed. I think there are still DRM versions out there as it is up to the copyright holder to agree but very few do anymore.
      • My understanding is that the Apple iTunes Store can remove DRM from old 128 kbps purchases if you upgrade them to the 256 kbps versions currently being sold.

        Wow, if that's true, that's wonderful. Do you know if there's a way to tell iTunes that you want to purchase, in one fell swoop, a non-DRM version of every one of the songs for which you only have a DRM'ed version?

    • by _Swank (118097)

      At least for the songs, you should be pay iTunes (again) to get the songs with DRM removed. I think it's like $.49/song which, if you have a ton of songs, is probably well over $30 but it would mean that you would have a Linux player for that content today.

  • If this ends up being applied to device drivers, it could be great news for the hard working FOSS coders working on drivers for graphics cards and other hardware under Linux and the other open OSes.

  • Forcing companies to open up their proprietary protocols while certainly a step in the right direction, probably isn't enough and will almost certainly be abused...

    Consider this, a company brings out product using a proprietary protocol or format...
    They are forced to release the documentation, but they do so slowly, once the documentation is out the format is (intentionally) extremely complex and takes a long time for anyone else to get very far in implementing it.. Eventually flaws in the documentation ar

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cowscows (103644)

      The government shouldn't force a company to support certain standards by making other formats illegal, what they should do is impose certain open formats/standards on government IT operations, and then companies can choose whether or not to support those standards, and then as a result of that support be able to sell their product to the government.

      Governments are generally large enough customers that by adopting something internally, it will create a significant incentive for the market to follow.

  • by Haffner (1349071) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:30PM (#32759806)
    I wonder which companies will run the calculations and decide that they will lose more profits opening up than they would by simply leaving the European market. While this sounds nice, companies who do a smaller percentage of business in Europe than they do elsewhere may decide it is worth it to keep their code locked. After all, no one will be able to implement interoperability exclusively in the EU, the US + rest of the world will get it too.
  • by agent_vee (1801664)
    Would I be able to sync my iPod without having to use iTunes? Or access my iTunes share with any DAAP client??? Would this stop Apple from preventing the Palm Pre from syncing with iTunes?
  • so that we can have some freedom with the devices we BUY. even americans' butts, mind that.
  • Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luckyo (1726890) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:58PM (#32760376)

    It's hilarious how many see this as an "attack on free market".

    Let me run a few facts down through your skulls:

    1. There is no free market for IT goods referred to in the statement. The market that exists is heavily controlled and regulated, essentially being a monopoly market on per-product basis, or interconnected market where vendor uses monopoly control over one aspect of the market to openly destroy freeness in another market.
    2. Neelie Kroes is probably the most pro-free market person you will find in EU. It's more of her life's philosophy then just a law enforcement on some level.
    3. Suggestions include OPENING the CLOSED MARKET, to make it... that's right, more OPEN!

    So do share, in what way is this "evil EU abusing US companies by closing free market"? I can see this being "good EU abusing evil US companies who like to close market to competition by forcing them to actually compete", but to actually claim the exact opposite, you have to either be ignorant, stupid, or have a deep vested interest in status quo.

    • Re:Free market (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QX-Mat (460729) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:10PM (#32760614)

      Exactly!

      This is good news and it goes to the heart of the treaty of Rome - that competition is a fundamental part of the EU, and the EU will move mountains to promote it. I suspect this will be in the form of a very long winded piece of guidance regulation that sits in parallel with Art 81. As someone who has read, reread and read again EU competition regulations and their directives from an academic point of view and professional one, it is mightily refreshing to finally see the EU do what I was told it did well... fight concerted practice and actively promote competition where the market fails.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @03:05PM (#32761698) Homepage Journal

    this version will be a binary abacus, and Bull Group will offer it as an upgrade to its now-outlawed mainframes and servers.

    this is envisioned to be the last generation of "computational" equipment availiable in the EU.

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