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Wednesday, November 15, 2006
EU Piles Fresh Pressure on Microsoft in Antitrust Showdown

The European Commission has stepped up the pressure on Microsoft in their long-running antitrust showdown by threatening new fines against the software giant if it failed to bow to Brussels past demands.

The European Union's executive arm said it had given Microsoft until November 23 to reveal its secret software protocol for its Windows operating system so that competitors can make rival products.

If the deadline is missed, Microsoft faces daily fines of up to three million euros, which could amount to as much as 350 million euros (448 million dollars) and bring its total penalty to over one billion euros.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said she was unsatisified with Microsoft's efforts to meet a 2004 antitrust ruling, which required the company among other things to reveal Windows protocol codes.

The US company has long clashed with the commission over the crushing market power of its existing Windows operating system and fined a record 497 million euros (637 million dollars) in a landmark March 2004 antitrust ruling.

Frustrated with Microsoft's defiance against some of its demands, in July the Commission slapped daily fines adding up to 280.5 million euros over the six-month period of the penalty for failing to fully respect the 2004 antitrust ruling. Microsoft is appealing against that charge.

In March this year Kroes also sounded the alarm about Microsoft's next generation operating system Vista, which might break competition law. Since then Brussels and Microsoft have held talks on the issue.

Kroes denied she was pursuing a vendetta against the software company, but said she would maintain pressure on Microsoft to comply with the EU's competition rules.

Kroes also said she wanted a single EU regulator to police the European energy market to ensure that all national regulators abide by the same regulations. Her plans are due to be announced on January 10.

Microsoft said on Wednesday it is ready to do any additional work to comply with a landmark antitrust decision taken by the European Commission.

"Microsoft is committed to full compliance with the Commission's March 2004 decision," it said in a statement. "We stand ready to do any additional work that is required to comply with the Commission's decision."

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