Microsoft: Our Troubles with the EU are Over

This is either a bit of unwarranted optimism or perhaps Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer knows more than he is letting on. Ballmer said Monday that the software giant's legal troubles in the European Union (EU) were at an end. Ballmer made the comments at the CeBIT computer trade show this week in Hannover, Germany.

"We received a fine last week for some interoperability issues in the past," he said. "I think it is well understood that with the agreements that we reached with the European Commission last fall, those issues are behind us. Of course we hope the interoperability principles prove valuable in the future, but that we will leave up to the Commission."

The European Commission fined Microsoft a whopping $1.4 billion last week for repeatedly failing to comply with a 2004 antitrust ruling against the company. Microsoft failed to deliver the final compliance requirement, a set of server protocol documentation that would be licensed to competitors, for several years.

Last month, however, the company issued much of that documentation to the public, a move that Microsoft says proves it is serious about interoperability. "We are permitting more innovation around our products, more interoperability, maybe also more potential for third parties to cannibalize what could have been Microsoft business," Ballmer noted. "But it is a path we have committed ourselves to because we think it is good for customers and is consistent with our legal obligations."

It's unclear how Ballmer could be so confident about its EU legal troubles. The European Commission is undergoing two additional antitrust investigations of the company, one around product bundling, while the other concerns Office document formats.

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