EC demands Microsoft compliance 'within weeks'

The European Commission is talking tough as it waits for Microsoft to comply with last year's antitrust ruling

Microsoft is under growing pressure to comply with the European antitrust ruling within a matter of weeks, an EU spokesman said on Wednesday.

The European Commission's competition spokesman said that if the matter is not resolved soon, it may fine Microsoft a significant sum of money.

"Our patience is in terms of weeks rather than months," said the spokesman. "They've had over a year now. Microsoft knows that if they don't comply to our satisfaction we can fine them up to five percent of their [daily global] turnover every day."

He said that Microsoft was aware of the specific date by which it must comply with the ruling, but the EC has decided not to publicise the date, as a "negotiation tactic".

The initial antitrust ruling on March 24 2004 demanded that Microsoft disclose information to rival makers of server software to enable their products to be interoperable with Windows and that it offer a version of Windows without Media Player.

The EC rejected Microsoft's proposed solution to the server interoperability in March this year, due tofour concerns. One of its main objections was the high level of royalties that Microsoft had proposed, said the spokesman. "The level of royalties should reflect the degree of innovation in the product, rather than [Microsoft's] monopoly power," said the spokesman.

Although Microsoft announced last month that they had addressed the majority of the EC's concern in this area, the EC spokesman said it was still talking to the software giant "concerning the proper implementation of the interoperability remedy." There are also issues regarding the version of Windows without Media Player that are yet to be resolved, said the spokesman.

A Microsoft spokesman was unable to comment on the deadline that the EC has imposed or its work towards complying with the ruling.

"I wouldn't want to talk about timing or what the dialogue is about," said the Microsoft spokesman. "We continue to work diligently and quickly to resolve the outstanding issues."

The EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes met Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the end of April to discuss the software giant's failure to comply with the ruling. Kroes said Microsoft must comply with the decision 'urgently and in full'.