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RealTime IT News

An EU Foot-Dragging Fine For Microsoft?

Microsoft is reportedly facing larger fines in its seemingly endless antitrust battle with European regulators.

European Commission (EC) members are considering plans to increase the $2.51 million daily fine facing Microsoft to $3.8 million, or as much as 5 percent of its average daily profits, according to a Reuters report, which cites anonymous sources.

EC spokesperson Jonathan Todd refused to comment on the reported increase in fines, but told internetnews.com in an e-mail that regulators will decide Wednesday whether to fine Microsoft.

Despite the looming decision, the company insists its thoughts are elsewhere.

"Our focus is not on fines, but compliance," said Microsoft spokesperson Jack Evans. The extent of any compliance is at the heart of the matter.

Since the European Commission (EC) fined Microsoft $613 million (497.2 million euros) as part of a 2004 antitrust ruling, the two parties have tangled over what is and isn't compliance.

European regulators required Microsoft to share technical data with rivals, as well as unbundle Windows Media Player software from its OS.

While Microsoft countered it had "committed massive resources to the technical documentation program," the EC maintained the software maker must comply.

Microsoft is expected to deliver the final portion of the technical data July 18.

Industry groups have readied statements denouncing the expected decision.

CompTIA, which participated in the April hearings where Microsoft argued fines should not be imposed, asked who will be next "in the Brussels hot-seat?"

European technology firms "will become obvious targets once Brussels realizes it will now have to prove it's not just biased against Microsoft," said Hugo Lueders, CompTIA's Director of Public Policy in Europe, in a statement.

"I can't help feeling this decision was taken a long time ago, whether Microsoft was going to comply or not," Lueders said.

Analysts, however, see the increased fines having little effect.

"Regardless of the amount, the fines won't matter until they are actually coming off the company's top line," Robert Helm of Directions on Microsoft, told internetnews.com.



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