Microsoft, EU Feud Heating Up

    March 3, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

The long-running antitrust saga involving Microsoft and the European Union took another nasty turn as both sides engaged in fingerpointing and tossing around accusations of misconduct.

The EU threatened to fine Microsoft some $2.4 million per day if it did not provide the information needed by third-party developers to interoperate with Windows products. Microsoft has called out the EU for withholding documents related to the antitrust case, and accused the EU Competition Commission of colluding with Microsoft’s competitors.

Just another day in the life of the world’s biggest tech company, as AP reported on the latest developments in the EU’s antitrust case against Microsoft.

In December 2005, Microsoft made thousands of pages of documents and the source code to Windows Server available to the EU. Now Microsoft is being criticized for releasing too much information and not enough specific interoperability documentation. And the EU is not happy.

Microsoft is equally displeased and its associate general counsel in Europe did not mince words when calling out the EU in the report:

Microsoft alleged Thursday that regulators had “inappropriate contacts” with rival companies and an independent monitor, Neil Barrett, known as the “trustee” – which it said called into question the impartiality of Barrett’s report.

The EU based its December charges largely on Barrett’s views that the technical documentation Microsoft had supplied needed a drastic overhaul to be workable.

“These contacts call into question whether the reports … are really independent, impartial assessments of Microsoft’s technical documentation, or instead are argumentative tracts developed for the Commission with the assistance of Microsoft’s competitors,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s associate general counsel in Europe.

Microsoft also believes the Commission has held back communications between it, Barrett, and rival companies. Some correspondence came to light in mid-February, according to Microsoft, proving the secret collaboration had taken place last fall.

The rival companies are all well-known names in technology: IBM, Novell, Oracle, and Sun. Microsoft claimed the EU arranged a meeting between Barrett and another unnamed Microsoft foe, the report said.

At stake is the ongoing appeal of the $613 million judgment against Microsoft by the EU for anticompetitive practices. That judgment led Microsoft to release Windows in the EU minus its Media Player to satisfy third-party accusations that bundling the player prevented competitor products from working properly in Windows.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.