EC Warns Microsoft of Pending Fines on Disclosure
The European Commissioner for Competition warned Microsoft on Thursday that
it is facing fines of nearly $2.4 million per day unless it immediately delivers
complete documentation of its programming interfaces, particularly those for
work group servers, to enable competitors to interoperate with Windows.
“I have given Microsoft every opportunity to comply with its obligations.
However, I have been left with no alternative other than to proceed via the
formal route to ensure Microsoft’s compliance,” Competition Commissioner
Neelie Kroes said in a statement.
As part of the EC’s order in March 2004 in its investigation of anticompetitive
practices, Microsoft is required to supply documentation of interfaces required
for full interoperability with Windows to competitors. Despite foot-dragging
by Microsoft and wrangling on both sides, the company had been ordered to
provide that documentation by Dec. 15.
Microsoft, of course, disagrees with the EC’s conclusions and claims
that it submitted all the necessary materials last week on time.
“We believe today's Statement of Objections is unjustified. The Commission
has issued this Statement regarding technical documentation we submitted last
week, even though by its own admission neither it nor the Trustee have even
read or reviewed these new documents,” responded Brad Smith, Microsoft
general counsel and senior vice president, in a statement.
That’s where the EC Competition commissioner’s definition clashes
In a report regarding the documentation that Microsoft has provided to date,
professor Neil Barrett, the EC’s Monitoring Trustee, draws the line. “Any
programmer or programming team seeking to use the technical documentation for
a real development exercise would be wholly and completely unable to proceed
on the basis of the documentation,” said Barrett’s report. “The
Technical Documentation is therefore totally unfit at this stage for its intended
purpose…overall, the process of using the documentation is an absolutely
frustrating, time-consuming and ultimately fruitless task.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s tete-a-tetes with the EC are far from over. The
EC has recently also been investigating
Microsoft’s entry into the security software business.
Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.