updated 10:05 am EST, Wed March 4, 2009
EU Softens MS Monitoring
The European Commission today said it would scale back its efforts to monitor Microsoft's compliance with a 2004 antitrust ruling that has forced the American software firm to provide code to third-party developers. In a statement, the European Union's legislative wing said it "no longer requires" a full-time monitoring agency to keep Microsoft in check and instead says it will rely on consultants as needed. The dedicated monitors had been in place since 2005.
The monitoring was deemed necessary after the Commission had fined Microsoft the equivalent of about $330 million in 2004 for allegedly abusing its monopoly position by hiding code that would let third-party developers integrate their software with Office and Windows. Microsoft is claimed to have given itself an unfair advantage by reserving the code for itself.
An easing of inspections would be one of few reprieves given to Microsoft by the European Union, which levied a nearly $1.4 billion fine against the Windows developer last year for supposedly defying the 2004 ruling. The European Commission has also previously required that Microsoft offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player built-in and this year accused the company of being anti-competitive in web browsers by always requiring that Internet Explorer come with Windows.