• United States
by Simon Taylor

Microsoft faces fine over EU anti-trust deadline

Dec 22, 20053 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLegalMicrosoft

The European Commission has given Microsoft five weeks to comply with its March 2004 anti-trust ruling on workgroup server interoperability, or face daily fines of €2 million ($2.4 million), a Commission spokesman said on Thursday.

“It is one year since the Court of First Instance confirmed Microsoft had to comply with the March 2004 decision. The Commission regrets Microsoft has failed to do so. We would prefer Microsoft to comply with the March 2004 decision, and not with their interpretation of that decision,” said Jonathan Todd, spokesman for European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

On Wednesday evening, the Commission sent Microsoft a statement of objections for failure to comply with the earlier ruling, and for failure to disclose complete and accurate information to allow non-Microsoft work-group servers to achieve full interoperability with PCs and servers running the Windows operating system, Todd said.

The statement is an expression of concerns and a list of recommended actions Microsoft must take to come into compliance with the earlier ruling.

Microsoft now has until Jan. 25. to reply to the statement of objections. However, the fine will apply from Dec. 15 unless Microsoft comes into compliance with the decision, Todd said.

The 2004 decision required Microsoft to document interoperability information to ensure that its competitors can develop products that interoperate with the Windows domain architecture natively supported in Windows client PC operating systems, and hence viably compete with Microsoft’s workgroup server operating system, the Commission said. Microsoft should thus allow the use of the disclosed specifications for implementation in workgroup server operating system products. Microsoft has prepared several versions of the technical documentation since the 2004 decision, and none have complied with the requirements of that decision, the Commission said.

During the five-week period, Microsoft may request a hearing to present its arguments. This hearing could be attended by member states and other interested parties.

The Commission is still examining the question of the royalties that licensees would have to pay for access to information about Microsoft’s server interoperability communications protocols, Todd said.

“If we have problems with it, we can issue a separate statement of objections,” he said. “The Commission’s view is that non-innovative protocols should be made available to the open-source community, but we are waiting for the ruling of the Court of First Instance.”

The Commission is also studying the application of the remedy relating to Windows Media Player. It had previously asked Microsoft to provide end users and computer manufacturers with an alternative version of its Windows XP operating system, without a bundled copy of Windows Media Player, in order to level the playing field for developers of other media player software.