What the...? EU Fines Microsoft $1.3 Billion

It looks like Microsoft's massive interoperability pledge last week didn't have the desired effect. Today, regulators from the European Union (EU) announced that they are fining Microsoft $1.3 billion for failing to comply with the 2004 antitrust judgment against the company. The EU has now fined Microsoft over $2.5 billion over the years for failing to meet the conditions of this ruling.

So what was Microsoft offense this time around? According to the EU, the company has yet to produce the technical documentation that would allow its competitors in the workgroup server market to create products that more seamlessly integrated with Microsoft's products. It was also charging unfair licensing fees. But Microsoft basically issued that documentation and more last week. And that publication in some ways even exceeded the EU requirements because it is now available freely to anyone that wants it; before, companies would have to pay a licensing fee and enter into a trade secrets licensing agreement to acquire that information.

Microsoft says it is reviewing the EU's decision but notes that the European Commission (EC) said in October that Microsoft "was in full compliance with the 2004 decision, so these fines are about past issues that have been resolved." The EU's continued belligerence--EU regulators publicly mocked Microsoft's documentation publication and interoperability announcement last week before even reviewing what the company had done--is somewhat unsettling.

Even more unsettling, for Microsoft, is that the 2004 antitrust ruling is just one of three separate antitrust actions that the EU is considering against the company. It is separately conducting two other antitrust investigations against the company, involving product tying and Office document interoperability. Not coincidentally, Microsoft's interoperability announcement last week completely addresses the second of those two concerns. Given the EU's behavior with regards to Microsoft lately, however, it's unclear whether they'll see it that way.

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