Report: EU Planning to Fine Microsoft - 28 Jun 2006

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In the News

- Report: EU Planning to Fine Microsoft
- Microsoft Unveils Unified Messaging Strategy

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Report: EU Planning to Fine Microsoft

According to a report in "The Financial Times," the European Union (EU) will soon announce that it's decided to levy a daily fine of 2 million euros, or $2.51 million, on Microsoft for its inability to remedy its illegal business practices. The EU's European Commission (EC), which is responsible for antitrust oversight, hasn't commented on the report.

According to sources for "The Financial Times," the EC has already drafted a ruling in which it declares that Microsoft has failed to implement the requirements of the 2004 antitrust ruling. The 2004 decision included a stipulation that the software giant provide rivals in the server business "complete and accurate" technical information about building software products that can interoperate with Windows Server. Microsoft has been waffling on that requirement for more than two years and has repeatedly submitted documentation that the EC classified as almost completely useless.

"The Financial Times" also reported that the EC antitrust directorate will present the draft ruling to national competition authorities early next week. European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes is expected to formally make the ruling public on July 12.

The $2.51 million daily fine would be retroactive to December 2005. The EU previously fined Microsoft about $625 million as part of the March 2004 decision.

Microsoft Unveils Unified Messaging Strategy

Yesterday Microsoft unveiled its plan to build software that combines email, IM, voice communications, and video conferencing into a single platform called Unified Messaging. The initial version of Unified Messaging will be targeted at businesses and will utilize new capabilities in upcoming Microsoft server products and in Office 2007.

"Communicating with colleagues and sharing information is still far too complicated," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates wrote in an executive email message to customers, noting how difficult it is to manage different email, phone, voice mail, and mobile phone systems. "Unified communications will reduce complexity by putting people at the center of the communications experience. Our goal is to integrate all of the ways we contact each other in a single environment, using a single identity that spans phones, PCs, and other devices."

According to Microsoft, all the software and hardware needed for Unified Messaging will ship by mid-2007. Beta versions of the software components will be available by the end of this year. Some of the capabilities necessary to realize this vision have previously been discussed; for example, Unified Messaging might utilize Exchange Server 2007's ability to integrate with PBX systems so that users can get their voice mail delivered with their email messages, meeting requests, and faxes. Exchange 2007 also supports a nifty feature that lets users interact with their email and scheduling information using voice control and a mobile phone.

Monday's announcement also included information about new products. Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 will provide multiuser data and support for application sharing and video, and new metadata extensions for Active Directory (AD) will let administrators manage presence information for their users. Microsoft Office RoundTable, a device that will connect to Live Communications Server, will allow for seamless multiperson video conferencing. And Microsoft's hardware partners are working on compatible USB handsets, Web cameras, and PC displays.

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