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Clock Ticking on Microsoft's EU Compliance

With Microsoft's June 1 European Union (EU) antitrust compliance deadline looming, the software giant and European trustbusters have some decisions to make. Microsoft faces daily fines of up to $5 million a day for refusing to comply with the EU's antitrust ruling in a timely manner. The EU says it will make a decision by the end of the July.

"We're in regular contact with Microsoft and we have no reason to believe they will not make their final offer before midnight \[Monday\]," an EU spokesperson said. "It will take time to analyze this proposal. I can't say whether they're going to fall into line or not."

Microsoft's expected submission will include a plan that details how it will comply with the EU ruling. The company has, so far, defaulted on two key provisions of the ruling. First, it has not supplied a version of Windows XP to the public that does not include Windows Media Player (WMP). Second, it has not made technical information available to its competitors in the server space.

In truth, Microsoft has made some headway with each requirement. After months of wrangling over the product's name, Microsoft has agreed to ship products called Windows XP Home Edition N and Windows XP Professional Edition N, which do not include WMP. However, these products have yet to make their way into the market, and the EU is concerned that Microsoft is purposefully making them unattractive to users. And Microsoft has already started making technical information available to competitors. However, some companies have argued that the information is expensive to license and comes with conditions that limit its usefulness.

Assuming Microsoft comes through with its final plan submission, the EU will review the plan. If unsatisfied, the EU will send its complaints to Microsoft and give the company ten days to respond. If still unsatisfied by the company's progress after that, a panel consisting of members from each of the EU's 25 nations would meet to assess a fine schedule.

Readers who recall Microsoft's US antitrust case will likely find the rhetoric here familiar. After months of complaining from both sides, it's unlikely that Microsoft will ever be fined for the delays and the company will, instead, probably submit a plan that is acceptable to EU regulators. The only thing slower than operating system development these days is political posturing.

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