Microsoft Resets The EU Clock

    June 1, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

By submitting a proposal to comply with last year’s Commission ruling, the software giant earns a temporary reprieve.

The antitrust ruling last year against Microsoft, which has paid a $655 million USD fine, called for the Redmond-based software and game console maker to perform a couple of actions.

One would be to open up its Windows operating system source code to third-party developers; another called for the company to make a version of the operating system available without bundling in the Windows Media Player.

Microsoft has fought these requirements and has tried to negotiate a more favorable settlement. Opening its source code outside of stringent licensing and non-disclosure terms would hamper the company’s ability to compete.

Last night, the company again submitted a proposal for compliance ahead of the midnight deadline. “We can confirm that the proposals did go into the commission last night prior to the deadline and we await the commission’s response,” a Microsoft spokesman said.

The EU Commission now has to consider Microsoft’s response. That will take several weeks; any delay works in Microsoft’s favor. The company had taken the EU to court, requesting a delay to these remedies until 2006, but was turned down by the court.

Third-party software makers want access to the source code that runs Windows servers so they can build interoperable products. Those products would be able to provide file and print services that work well with Windows machines.

The decision regarding the Windows Media Player has been a touchy one with regulators. They seem to feel Microsoft will provide a version of Windows without the Media Player that will be technically inferior to the standard OS. Customers who would want full functionality could be compelled to download the Media Player.

That would circumvent the EU competition requirement, which seems aimed at allowing users to download players from RealNetworks or other companies. The EU appears to be contending that Windows Media Player breaks other players on a Windows machine.

And Microsoft has been unhappy with EU proposals for what it would be allowed to charge for the unbundled operating system, and for third-party access to its source code.

Once the EU finishes considering Microsoft’s proposal, they could either accept its terms or reject them. On rejection, the Commission would bring a new action against Microsoft, give the company two weeks to respond, and then potentially begin imposing a fine of as much as $5 million USD per day.

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