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New EC Doubts Emerge Over Microsoft

UPDATED: The European Commission (EC) is looking at another area where Microsoft may not be following orders to unbundle its operating system, increasing the possibility the regulatory body could impose daily fines on the software giant.

EU members are mulling whether a version of Microsoft's Windows software isn't as compatible as it should be with competing products from media software companies, because it lacks certain functionality, confirmed EU spokesman Jonathan Todd in an interview.

Microsoft removed such features as the ability to let a user attach audio or video clips in a Word processing document and run it. Microsoft's main competition in the media software space is RealNetworks, which stands to gain the most from the unbundling and interoperability sanctions placed on the Redmond, Wash., software giant.

"The commission has to verify the requirement that Microsoft refrain from using any commercial, technological or contractual terms that would render the unbundled version of Windows less attractive or less functional," Todd said.

Todd also confirmed that the EU has shot down Microsoft's request that it have the right to veto what a bipartisan monitoring trustee might choose to examine with regard to Microsoft's compliance in the antitrust case. The EU has written to Microsoft, saying that it deems the request unacceptable, Todd said.

"The commission considers Microsoft's request an unacceptable compromise of the trustee's ability to provide effective monitoring of Microsoft's compliance with the sanctions," Todd said.

Microsoft has 10 working days to respond to the commission.

The latest wrinkles in the case come less than a week after the EC came down hard on Microsoft, saying it has doubts that the software company is complying with an order to enable other software providers to work with computers that run the Windows operating system.

The commission warned that the software giant must comply with an EC competition ruling within weeks or face a new round of multi-million-dollar fines.

The compliance order is part of the EC's ruling last year that fined Microsoft a record $613 million after it found the company abused its "virtual monopoly" with its Windows operating system and broke European antitrust law governing competition.

The ruling is still under appeal, but Microsoft has been ordered to comply in the meantime or face additional fines. The commission is weighing whether to begin a process that could result in fines for Microsoft of as much as $5 million a day for not cooperating with its orders.