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More EU fines loom over Microsoft

updated 11:40 am EST, Thu March 1, 2007

More MS Europe Fines

Microsoft still isn't complying with demands to give third-party software makers fair access to Windows code, the European Commission said on Thursday. The regulatory body contended that Microsoft had essentially ignored the 2004 ruling that the company had to make core elements of its OS reasonably accessible to developers from outside companies, which in the past have accused the Windows maker of deliberately hiding away code that gave its own programs a distinct advantage over competitors.

"In the 50 years of European antitrust policy, it's the first time we've been confronted with a company that has failed to comply with an antitrust decision," the Commission said.

The EC in particular chastised Microsoft for the price it had set for gaining access to the inner workings of the software, calling it "unreasonable" and a deterrent to companies that wanted to challenge Microsoft on equal terms. The Redmond firm would be threatened with fines as steep as $4 million US per day if it didn't respond to the findings within a month, according to the Commission's statement.

Microsoft was quick to refute the European claims, saying that it had not only set a reasonable price but had vetted the cost of the source code access with PricewaterhouseCoopers, which said the price was 30 percent below the going rate. The software developer further dismissed the EC's implied assertion that the source code would have to be licensed royalty-free due to lack of innovation, saying that it had invested too much effort into Windows.

"US and European patent offices have awarded Microsoft more than 36 patents for the technology in these protocols, which took millions of dollars to develop, and another 37 patents are pending," Microsoft said. "So it's hard to see how the Commission can argue that even patented innovation must be made available for free."

The company also objected to the notion that it would have to make the code available to any company that made a request for code, regardless of its home territor. It accused the European agency of trying to "regulate the pricing of our intellectual property on a global basis" and abusing its authority.

Microsoft's statement was in part a reaction to earlier complaints by third parties about its supposed anti-competitive practices, which were filed predominantly by American companies such as Adobe and Symantec.

By Electronista Staff
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