Lukewarm Response to Microsoft’s Latest EU Offer

Microsoft’s Tuesday offer of “free, unlimited” technical support to rivals
is generating only a lukewarm response from European Commission (EU)
antitrust regulators.

In its latest effort to appease the EU, Microsoft pledged to licensees of
the EU’s Workgroup Server Protocol Program not only unlimited support but
also to provide on-site assistance to licensees.

Microsoft previously offered to provide up to 500 hours of free technical

EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said the EU had not seen the actual Microsoft
proposal as of Wednesday morning.

“The Commission has not been told about this offer by Microsoft. The only
information we have is what they have given to the press,” Todd said in an
e-mail response to

Todd said that at first blush the Microsoft offer “seems to be a
constructive proposal” but stressed that the EU did not know any details of
the plan.

“However, technical support is only helpful once the documentation has
reached a certain quality standard,” Todd said.

In March of 2004, the EU determined Microsoft broke European antitrust law
and fined the company a record $613 million for abusing its “virtual
monopoly” with its Windows operating system.

After ruling that Microsoft violated its monopoly position, the EU also
required the company to unbundle its Windows Media Player software from
Windows in European markets.

Microsoft is appealing the decision.

“Two years after the decision, the Commission’s preliminary view is that the
technical documentation still does not comply with the requirements of the
decision,” Todd said. “Companies trying to compete with Microsoft must be
able to have access to useable, workable documentation, and should not be
forced to rely on help from Microsoft staff.”

In a statement issued Tuesday, Microsoft said it has devoted more than
30,000 hours to develop indexed and searchable documentation.

“These new documentation projects, together with free and unlimited
technical support and access to Windows source code, will ensure that our
competitors have all the assistance they need to make this program
effective,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s senior vice president and general
counsel, said in the statement.

Microsoft also pledged to continue making Windows’ source code available to
competitors and to continue to work with the EU to improve the

“The improvement of documentation for complex technology inevitably requires
a cooperative process with input from a variety of users,” said Smith. “As
we underscored when we offered in January to provide access to Windows
source code, we are committed to taking every possible step to satisfy the
Commission’s requirements.”

Microsoft also said it has submitted a work plan to the EU’s monitoring
trustee outlining a “number of changes” the company is proposing to make its

The EU’s Todd said the Commission is already aware of Microsoft’s proposals
to the monitoring trustee.

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