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European Commission Consults Industry About Microsoft Compliance

The European Union's (EU's) European Commission confirmed Friday that it has been consulting with the computer industry to determine whether Microsoft has complied with last year's antitrust ruling that required that the company offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player (WMP) and license its Windows Server communication protocols. The Commission has written to IT companies, PC manufactures, and retailers to judge whether the compliance terms are acceptable. Microsoft has developed a new version of Windows XP without WMP, but the company has yet to come up with an acceptable name for the product. Microsoft originally planned to call the new version Windows Reduced Media Edition, which the Commission rejected because terms of the ruling clearly stipulated that the new version not be marketed as inferior to the standard OS. According to new reports, the company has now proposed the names Windows XP N (or another letter) or Window XP not including WMP. The new version is currently available only to PC manufacturers, but no major European PC manufacturers are expected to use it. Consumers will be able to purchase the version after an acceptable name is agreed upon. 
Microsoft has complied with the EU ruling by posting details of its protocols, which enable easier interoperability with the company's server products, but the licensing fees competitors will have to pay to use the protocols are currently under dispute. The ruling requires Microsoft to offer access to its protocols on a "reasonable and nondiscriminatory" basis, which the company believes doesn't preclude charging for licenses. Many observers believe that Microsoft's terms will undermine the ruling's intent, which was to help restore competition. The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has argued that open-source software (OSS) projects won't be able to use protocols because Microsoft's system requires licensing fees, registration, and software activation.
The Commission is speaking to companies such as RealNetworks and open-source developer Samba about Microsoft compliance. The talks should be concluded by the end of this week, and the Commission will likely make a decision by early next month. Under EU law, the Commission can ask Microsoft to modify its proposal. If Microsoft fails to comply, the EU can impose daily fines of as much as 5 percent of the company's daily earnings. Although Microsoft continues to appeal the ruling, the company has maintained that it will work with the EU to be compliant. "We are fully committed to complying with the Commission's decision and in our implementation of these measures and in maintaining an open, constructive, and professional relationship," Dirk Delmartino, a Microsoft spokesman, said.

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