Tue, Oct 23, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Microsoft abides by EU regulators

AP , BRUSSELS

EU regulators said yesterday that Microsoft Corp had agreed to cut royalties for server software rivals and hand over information to open source developers, obeying part of a 2004 antitrust ruling upheld by an appeals court last month.

If the software maker does not keep to the terms of the deal, competitors will be able to take it to a British court to seek damages.

"Microsoft has finally agreed to three substantial changes," the European Commission said.

The company will charge a one-time payment of 10,000 euros (US$14,310) to companies that want technical information to help them make software compatible with Microsoft's Windows desktop operating system.

It will also allow that data to go to open source companies such as Linux, and will cut the price it charges for worldwide licenses -- including patents -- to less than 7 percent of what Microsoft originally claimed.

"The agreements will be enforceable before the High Court in London, and will provide for effective remedies, including damages, for third-party developers in the event that Microsoft breaches those agreements," the European Commission said.

The EU's executive arm said it would soon decide if Microsoft violated EU law by overcharging for this interoperability information. It accused the company of going too far and threatened fines.

Regulators warned that Microsoft had "ongoing obligations to continue to comply" with the 2004 ruling that found it guilty of monopoly abuse, ordering it to share information with rivals, market a version of Windows without a media player and pay a fine of 497 million euros.

"It is regrettable that Microsoft has only complied after a considerable delay, two court decisions and the imposition of daily penalty payments," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.

"The measures that the Commission has insisted upon will benefit computer users by bringing competition and innovation back to the server market," she said. "I have always said that open source software developers must be able to take advantage of this remedy: Now they can."

Microsoft controls some 95 percent of the software running on desktop computers in offices and homes and has a 70 percent chunk of work group server software that controls how a group's desktops access each other and transfer tasks to printers.

Open source server software is now "virtually the only alternative for users and [is] thus the main surviving competitive constraint on Microsoft," the EU said, adding that handing over the technical information on Windows should offer consumers better products at better prices.

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