Microsoft Prepares Response to European Charges

A day after European Union (EU) antitrust regulators laid down a scathing series of charges against Microsoft, the stunned company said that it's reviewing the evidence and preparing an official response. But Microsoft representatives said yesterday that they weren't prepared in advance for the media circus that arose in the wake of the EU announcement because European antitrust regulators never informed the company that the EU was filing charges. Instead, Microsoft officials learned about the event from news reports, they said.
   "We are examining \[the\] contents \[of the EU statement\] thoroughly now to assess the concerns in detail," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "It is somewhat unfortunate as it lengthens the proceedings that have already been going on for 3 years. \[But\] we take this investigation very seriously and will work hard to focus our efforts, responding to concerns and bringing this to a positive resolution."
   The company had little to say when asked about the EU's ability to fine Microsoft as much as $3 billion, to require the company to unbundle Windows Media Player (WMP) from Windows or offer a Windows version that also includes rival media-player software, and to require Microsoft to open up its server software APIs to competitors. "We're not going to speculate today on outcomes or suggested remedies," the spokesperson said, noting that Microsoft previously had taken steps to address antitrust concerns in Europe.
   Yesterday's filing represents "Microsoft's last chance to respond," according to EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti, who said that the software giant has 30 days to submit a formal response. After that, the EU will issue its decision, which could potentially include the aforementioned remedies and a cash fine. If the EU does rule against Microsoft as expected, the ruling will likely be the biggest legal setback the company has ever faced, given its settlement of the landmark US antitrust case. "The final decision is months rather than years away now," an EU representative said.

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