February 27, 2008

EU Slam Microsoft with Further Fine

The saga continues. The European Commission have fought Microsoft to ensure that, in Europe at least, they have to play by the rules rather than making them up as they go along. Unlike the US government (which not only refused to declare them a monopoly despite their domination of the desktop but also failed to properly enforce the rather tame sanctions they imposed), the EU has repeatedly told Microsoft to stop behaving in an anti-competitive way.

The latest action, in which the Commission sued Microsoft for failing to comply with previous antitrust decisions, has resulted in a €899 m ($1.35bn) fine. Though it has only led to a 12c drop in the stock this represents about a tenth of Microsoft's annual profits, and may finally give the company reason to think seriously about complying with court rulings rather than ignoring them.

This is the first time in 50 years that such action has been taken by the EU, because every other company losing such an action chose to comply with the spirit and the letter of the decisions.

Microsoft faces further trouble with the EU, which recently started a new investigation into Microsoft business practices relating to their dominance in the word processing and spreadsheet arenas, and to determine whether the company unfairly tied Internet Explorer to Windows. The recent announcement about API sharing will also come under scutiny, and the European Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, observed it's the fifth time that Microsoft has made an announcement about improving interoperability. She said "Talk is cheap. Let's wait and let's find the reality in this case. They have to deliver and implement."

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