EU huddles with Microsoft rivals

/ Source: The Associated Press

European Union antitrust regulators are consulting with software rivals of Microsoft Corp. to see whether the industry giant is complying with last year’s landmark EU ruling against it, officials said Friday.

The EU executive Commission is hearing from software companies through this week, and will then decide if additional punishment is necessary. Fines could reach as high as 5 percent of daily turnover.

EU antitrust regulators fined Microsoft a record 497 million euros ($654 million) when they ruled in March that Microsoft abusively wielded its Windows software monopoly and locked competitors out of the market.

(Microsoft and NBC are partners in MSNBC.)

Microsoft insisted it was in the process of complying with the EU ruling.

“We are committed to comply fully with the Commission decision and are working constructively with the Commission toward that goal,” Microsoft spokesman Dirk Delmartino said.

“As we move forward it makes sense for the Commission that it would seek industry feedback,” he said.

The EU ruling requires the company to offer an alternative Windows version for sale without its video and music Media Player application. Microsoft also has to make technical information available to allow rivals to improve the interoperability of their products with the Windows server.

“The Commission hasn’t yet made up its mind as to whether it considers the measures offered by Microsoft to be satisfactory in terms of meeting the conditions,” EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said.

One key issue that has yet to be resolved is the name of the stripped-down version of Microsoft Windows. The Commission has rejected one name already, arguing it would be too much of a sales disincentive.

Forcing Microsoft to shed Media Player from its Windows platform is seen as an attempt to strike at the commercial backbone of the company’s global software empire.

The EU’s ruling in March went much further than Microsoft’s 2002 settlement of similar charges with the U.S. Justice Department, which required only that users be allowed to hide Media Player and set another as the default.