EU’s Deadline Looms For Software Giant

The European Commission will decide by late July if Microsoft has gone far enough toward complying with an earlier
antitrust ruling, or whether it will levy hefty sanctions against the
software giant, the commission said today.

“We’re in regular contact with Microsoft, and we have no reason to believe
they will not make their final offer before midnight tonight,” spokesperson
Anthony Gooch wrote in an e-mail on Tuesday. Microsoft has until midnight
Tuesday, Brussels time, to comply.

The commission, which is part of the 25-nation European Union, 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.

Microsoft was also ordered to make its Windows operating system available
without the Windows Media Player, so that computer makers can buy
alternative software to play video and audio from competitors, such as
RealNetworks and Apple Computer. The software giant must also share
information with rival makers of servers used to run printers and retrieve
files, an issue known as interoperability.

A spokeswoman for the software giant would only say the company continues
to work hard with the commission towards an agreement on full compliance
with the decision.

The commission, which has been wrangling with Microsoft over its efforts
to comply with the rulings, expects to have a decision by July 20, the last
meeting of the European Commission before its summer recess.

“We will analyze carefully whatever is on the table by midnight tonight.
This analysis is likely to take several weeks. We can’t say at this stage
whether they’re going to fall into line or not,” Gooch said.

The commission said that it requires full compliance with each and every
aspect of the March 2004 decision, according to Gooch.

“We are not commenting on whether one or other part of the decision has
been complied with,” he said.

If the commission were to conclude that Microsoft was not in compliance
with the March 2004 decision, it would set in motion the procedures for
applying daily fines.

This would include sending a formal statement of our intentions to
Microsoft, giving the company an opportunity to respond, consulting member
states in the Advisory Committee on Competition and proposing to impose
daily fines to the college of commissioners, Gooch said.

After the deadline, the commission will assess whether the measures
proposed by Microsoft are sufficient to ensure full compliance. If the
measures are not fully compliant, “the commissioner intends to set in motion
the procedures to impose daily fines of up to 5 percent of Microsoft’s daily
turnover worldwide until such time as Microsoft complies with the remedies
to the satisfaction of the commission,” the EU said in a statement.

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