Microsoft Looks to Buddy List in EU Spat

Dad always said, “If a bully is picking on you, make friends with a bigger bully.”

That seems to be Microsoft’s latest tactic in its ongoing wrangles with the European Competition Commission. On Monday, it sent a memo to a select list of other companies, asking them to weigh in, not with the EU, but with the U.S. Department of Justice, the “Financial Times” reported. Microsoft had not confirmed the information by press time.

In statement e-mailed to, Microsoft said, “In recent years, the European Commission and EU Member State Governments have intervened in a number of competition cases and appeals in the United States. It makes sense for the U.S. Government to offer its views in a similar way under the procedures established by European courts, where the issue has broad implications for the global economy.”

The memo seemed to be a reiteration of Redmond’s strategy of drumming up nationalistic support. In March 2004, as it readied its appeal of the ruling, the world’s largest software vendor rallied support from the DoJ and Washington State Senator Patty Murray.

“Today’s ruling by the EU is yet another example of Europe’s consistent harassment of American industry and policies that support our economic growth,” Murray said in a statement at that time.

Assistant Attorney General, R. Hewitt Pate delivered a statement back then as well detailing the DoJ’s investigation, implying that it should be good enough for the EU. “The United States’ Final Judgment provides clear and effective protection for competition and consumers by preventing affirmative misconduct by Microsoft,” Pate stated.

We last left Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and new Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes in a tête-à-tête in which she “urgently” told him to get busy complying with the antitrust penalties imposed in March 2004.

The EU hit Microsoft with a $613 million fine, which it’s paid. It told Microsoft to ship a version of Windows XP sans Windows Media Player, which it did in July.

Still at issue are the precious Windows server protocols. Windows Server System is the key to the advanced functions of Microsoft Office, and Microsoft had been loathe to let third-party developers have a go at them.

Nevertheless, while it fights the EU over what it terms compulsory licensing of its server APIs, Microsoft has made a philosophical shift to offering its software as a service — and to letting others build on top of it.

When Microsoft launched Windows Live and Office Live on November 1, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates emphasized that competitors would be able to take advantage of the same published interfaces to Windows that Microsoft did for the Live offerings. Said Gates, “Part of our responsibility is that we make that information available and give people those opportunities.”

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