New Zealand still considering Microsoft complaint

New Zealand's Commerce Commission is yet to decide whether to investigate a complaint laid this month alleging anticompetitive behaviour by Microsoft Corp.

"We're getting more information together," says commission spokeswoman Jackie Maitland, a process that involves talking to the complainant, Auckland law firm Clendon Feeney and Microsoft, and which could take a week or more.

Clendon Feeney alleges the introduction by Microsoft of its Software Assurance licensing scheme breaches fair trading and commerce laws.

But Microsoft New Zealand managing director Ross Peat says the company is confident it hasn't broken any local laws.

"We are happy to sit down with the Commerce Commission to explain the changes to our new licensing program and show how the program is similar to those of our competitors in the industry over the last decade," Peat says in a statement. "New Zealanders are quick to adopt new technology so, broadly speaking, this licensing model -- which is designed to make licensing a lot easier to manage for customers who upgrade frequently -- is a good option for many businesses here."

Whether that's borne out by customers signing up to the program, Microsoft isn't saying. While professing to be "pleased with the rate of uptake since Software Assurance was introduced in October", Peat won't provide actual numbers. "It's too early to draw any conclusions" about the scheme's popularity, he says, in response to questions sent by e-mail.

Software Assurance requires customers to pay two years in advance for the right to any Microsoft software upgrades. This is regardless of whether or not Microsoft releases any upgrade within those two years. In the past customers have bought upgrades as they required them.

According to Clendon Feeney partner and Computerworld contributor Craig Horrocks, that will disadvantage customers and is a case of Microsoft "taking advantage of its market power for prohibited purposes".

Peat says customers have a number of licensing options.

"Microsoft is committed to working with our customers to help them evaluate which licensing model is the best choice for their business."

Computerworld's report on the filing of the complaint a week ago ignited debate on the issue in newsgroups and on websites, including in the U.S.

On ZDNet, battlelines were drawn between posters from New Zealand and the U.K. in support of the complaint, and a number of U.S. correspondents who said objectors to Microsoft's licensing should shop elsewhere for their software.

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