Microsoft to speak out on EU troubles

Today, Microsoft Senior Counsel Brad Smith will hold a press conference in Brussels where, presumably, he will address the software giant's battle with European regulators. Smith is point man for Microsoft's battle with the European Union over penalties for abusing its market dominance. Relations have been strained between Microsoft and Neelie Kroes, who took over as Competition Commissioner from Mario Monte early in 2005. In April 2005, Kroes told Microsoft to "urgently comply" with the sanctions the commission had imposed. On November 10, the EU gave Microsoft five weeks to comply, or face a fine of approximately $2.45 million. The deadline was later moved to February 15. On December 22 2005, the EU adopted a Statement of Objections to the way Microsoft had responded to the initial sanctions. On the same day, Microsoft Senior Counsel Brad Smith issued a statement objecting to the objections. He pointed out that neither the commission nor Barrett had read the latest batch of technical documentation Microsoft had submitted the week before. He said Microsoft had responded to more than 100 requests from the Commission. "Yet every time we make a change, we find that the Commission moves the goal post and demands another change," the statement said. The Commission's position is that none of the changes Microsoft has made complies with the original directive to make sure that competitors can create software that interoperates with Windows. A statement published by the EU said, "The Commission understands that Microsoft has recently prepared revised documentation addressing only points relating to formatting (e.g. typos, missing hyperlinks), but not the general concerns about completeness and accuracy." At issue is an order from the Commission that the internal workings of Windows be documented and licensed. Smith said such a move could open the door to the production of clones of parts of the Windows operating system itself. In the United States, a technical committee composed of three jointly appointed computer experts monitors Microsoft's progress in fulfilling settlement demands. In the UK, security expert Neil Barrett has that role. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice complained that Microsoft had fallen behind in compliance with the 2002 settlement of antitrust proceedings. The struggle began in in March 2004, when the Competition Commission ruled that the company had engaged in anti-competitive behavior. It ordered Microsoft to pay a $613 million fine, produce a version of Windows that didn't contain Windows Media Player and release server protocols that would allow third-party software vendors to create products that interoperate with Windows. UKFast is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

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