updated 1/24/2006 10:32:36 AM ET 2006-01-24T15:32:36

The European Commission has agreed to extend a deadline for Microsoft Corp. to provide better documentation so its software programs can be used with competitors' products, the company said Tuesday.

Microsoft spokesman Dirk Delmartino said EU regulators had given the company until Feb. 15 to answer a complaint that it is still failing to obey the 2004 antitrust ruling. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

"We wanted the time to study and respond to it. It arrived just before the holidays," he said.

Last month, the EU executive threatened to fine Microsoft up to ??2 million (US$2.36 million) a day backdated to Dec. 15, saying the company was proving intransigent about sharing data with competitors.

Microsoft retorted that the EU Commission was trying to undermine its Windows operating system with ever-more-drastic demands for technological transparency, and that it would contest the measure under EU law.

The company claims that the Commission's latest demands on opening up its software specifications would also open the door to the cloning of the company's core product, the ubiquitous Windows operating system.

EU regulators based its decision on a report from the monitoring trustee of the 2004 agreement which said Microsoft's concessions were insufficient so far.

"Any programmer or programming team seeking to use the technical documentation for a real development exercise would be wholly and completely unable to proceed on the basis of the documentation. The technical documentation is therefore totally unfit at this stage for its intended purpose," the report by British computer scientist Neil Barrett said.

The EU ordered Microsoft in March 2004 to pay $613 million and share code with rivals and offer an unbundled version of Windows without the Media Player software for what it saw as an abuse of its dominant position in the industry. The Court of First Instance, the EU's second-highest court, has not yet set a date to hear Microsoft's appeal.

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