Microsoft Lashes Out at EU

Stung by European Union (EU) regulator comments over the past week, Microsoft officials on Wednesday charged that the EU has not provided the company with the information it needs to effectively defend itself against antitrust charges. As a result, Microsoft is now asking for another extension to the date when it has to supply technical information about its OSs so that it can mount its defense. Previously, Microsoft had been given an extension until February 15, 2006.

"All Microsoft is asking for is access to our file," a Microsoft spokesperson said Wednesday. "This is a basic question of fairness and transparency." Although we might cynically view the, ahem, transparency of this request, let's examine Microsoft's complaint: Microsoft says that 71 of the 100 documents in the EU's case file against the software giant are categorized as internal or confidential and therefore can't be turned over to the company. Also, Microsoft says it should be allowed to view the correspondence between the company's rivals and the EU.

"The absence of access \[to these documents\] is seriously prejudicing Microsoft's right of defense," a Microsoft lawyer wrote in a letter to the EU this week. "The position taken by the \[European\] Commission \[EC, the EU's antitrust body\] is particularly troubling because it contradicts the Commission's stated commitment to increased transparency and due process in antitrust investigations."

An EU spokesperson says that the EC is considering Microsoft's request. "It is ... premature for Microsoft to claim that the Commission has prejudiced their rights of defense," the spokesperson said, noting that the companies who discussed Microsoft with the EU expected that communication to remain confidential. "Microsoft is very attached, as you know, to business secrets," he added. "Its own business secrets."

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