- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union levied a second massive fine on Microsoft and threatened greater penalties in the future unless the world’s largest software company obeys a 2004 antitrust order to share technical details of its Windows operating system with rivals.

Microsoft Corp. was fined $357 million yesterday for reputedly flouting the earlier order, on top of the record $613 million fine it paid at the time. It also faces penalties of $3.82 million a day beginning July 31.

“Microsoft has still not put an end to its illegal conduct,” said EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. “I have no alternative but to levy penalty payments for this continued compliance. No company is above the law.”

Microsoft, which earned $2.98 billion in the quarter ended March 31, said it would appeal, claiming the “unprecedented” amount was unfair.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said the company would ask the European Union’s second-highest court, the Court of First Instance, whether its compliance efforts have been sufficient. It claims the European Union was never clear about what it wanted.

The European Union told the company to supply “complete and accurate technical specifications” to developers to help them make software for servers that allow computers running Windows, printers and other devices on a network to talk to one another. It accused Microsoft of using its monopoly position with Windows to elbow into the new server software market.

Mr. Smith said the EU was not clear how Microsoft should present the information.

“Before one imposes a fine of hundreds of millions of euros, I think that there’s a responsibility the government has to be specific and concrete about what it wants someone to do,” he said. “The decision did not do that.”

Mrs. Kroes said Microsoft’s efforts had not come close to a readable manual that developers could use. Her decision is based on reports from an independent monitor — computer science professor Neil Barrett — and other technical advisers.

It is the first time the European Union has fined a company for not obeying an order. Microsoft has three months to pay.

Rejecting Microsoft’s claims of vague and shifting demands, Mrs. Kroes said, “I don’t buy Microsoft’s line … because the March 2004 decision is absolutely crystal clear.”

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