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RealTime IT News

More Regulator Woes For Microsoft

It wasn't the kind of fireworks Microsoft was hoping for, as regulators from Europe to Asia dampened the holiday spirits of the software giant.

European Union regulators on Monday reportedly voted to support a European Commission (EC) plan to fine Microsoft up to $2.6 million per day for failing to comply with a 2004 EC antitrust decision.

EC spokesperson Jonathan Todd refused to comment on the New York Times report. However, the spokesperson told internetnews.com that the EC will likely meet July 12 to rule on the antitrust issue. The ruling would come days before the final July 18 deadline to provide the technical documentation program.

After threatening Microsoft in December with fines for not living up to the EC's 2004 decision, Europe's Court of First Instance in April listened to five days of Microsoft testimony, calling for an annulment of the decision.

Today's report would seem to confirm that the EC had already drafted a ruling saying Microsoft is guilty of failing to provide to competitors with technical information about the operating system.

Although Microsoft won't comment on today's report, it said it hadn't been informed of a final decision, according to a spokesperson, but that, "We are committed to compliance with the commission's decision."

To prepare for the decision, Microsoft is "dedicating massive resources" to ensure it meets the July 18 deadline, including 300 people working 16, 18 and 24-hour days, according to a spokesperson.

"People are sleeping under desks and in some cases have been away from their families for days and weeks at a time," according to the spokesperson.

The software giant has kept industry groups apprised of the EC actions. One insider who was part of those briefings told internetnews.com "the fix is in." A decision to fine Microsoft "was a foregone conclusion."

Analysts say despite the possibility of looming fines, there remains some wiggle room for Microsoft.

"Until there is a fine in place, Microsoft has an 11th-hour response," said Joe Wilcox, a JupiterResearch analyst. However, there comes a point where the EU says enough's a enough.

Now we may have come to that point in South Korea. Tuesday, Seoul's high court rejected Microsoft's request to set aside a ruling by the country's Fair Trade Commission (FTC).

In May, Microsoft appealed to the Seoul High Court after the Korean FTC denied the company's appeal of a 2005 decision by the KFTC.

The KFTC ordered Microsoft to pay nearly $32 million and unbundle its Windows Media Player and MSN Messenger from the Windows operating system.

Today's decision "is not supported by factual grounds," said Microsoft Korea senior attorney Jae Hoon Chung, in a statement. Microsoft said it would appeal.

Even when courts hand down defeats, stalling could work for Microsoft.

"After a point, the ruling becomes meaningless," said Wilcox.



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