Microsoft Meets EC’s Documentation Deadline

The European Commission’s antitrust group said that Microsoft  met a Thursday deadline to submit a revised version of the interoperability documentation the agency requested nearly three years ago.

But it could take the EC months to test and verify the compliance of the documentation, which Microsoft said comprised more than 100 documents spanning 8,500 pages.

Following the EC’s March 2004 request, Microsoft filed detailed interface documentation that would allow workgroup server software from rivals such as Sun Microsystems  and Novell  to work with PCs and servers based on the Windows operating system.

The documentation comes after the EC slapped the software giant with a $280.5 million euro ($357 million) fine in July for not providing “complete and accurate” documentation.

Microsoft had filed several revisions of its documentation which were deemed inadequate by the EC’s monitoring trustee, professor Neil Barrett, a computer expert suggested by Microsoft and appointed by the EC to advise the EC on Microsoft’s compliance with the March 2004 decision.

“We are pleased that the Commission has recognized our efforts to comply with our documentation obligations, and we will continue to work closely with the Commission and the Trustee to ensure that we are in full compliance with every aspect of the Commission’s decision,” Microsoft said in a statement.

The EC said that the documentation is now available for review by any potential licensee to evaluate whether it contains the necessary information to allow the development of interoperable workgroup server software.

Barrett and his staff of 7 technical advisers Trustee will also test the documentation in order to verify its accuracy.

The EC will determine whether or not Microsoft complied with its demands after seeing the findings of both the potential licensees and Barrett.

If the EC finds that Microsoft is still not in compliance, it may fine the company 2 million to 3 million euros (as much as $3.9 million) per day retroactive to July 31, 2006. Regulators threatened new fines last week if Microsoft didn’t fill in the missing details.

Microsoft’s latest move comes almost three years after the EC fined Microsoft 497 million euros ($613 million) and said the software maker abused its monopoly by withholding technical data from rivals that would allow them to create software that will work with Windows.

The EC also demanded Microsoft build a version of Windows that doesn’t come with the company’s media player software.

Over the last couple of years, Microsoft has appealed the EC’s decrees.

The EC, with the help of Barrett and his team, has doggedly hounded the software giant to make products it feels comply with Europe’s competition policies.

The EC’s path could have profound implications for the forthcoming Windows operating system Vista, which is due in January.

Adobe  and Symantec  are both pressuring the EC to block Vista sales in Europe.

Adobe claims Vista uses a competing file format that will hurt its own PDF sales; Symantec argues that Vista features security software that will harm its products’ chances in the competitive market.

Microsoft had also threatened not to ship Vista in Europe at all unless it gets more ground rules from the EC, but the two parties have since met in the middle.

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