Microsoft says (again) it will comply fully with EU antitrust demands

Microsoft has decided not to appeal the European Court of First Instance's decision to uphold the European Commission's antitrust decision against Microsoft. Now the company really and truly will provide the protocol documentation that it was ordered to back in 2004, Microsoft officials are saying. I wonder how much this matters any more....

Microsoft has decided not to appeal the European Court of First Instance's decision to uphold the European Commission's antitrust decision against Microsoft.

This means that Microsoft will comply fully with the European Commission's antitrust demands and provide full documentation enabling third-party products to interoperate with Windows and will make necessary protocols available for a lower licensing fee than the company demanded originally.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer cemented the deal with EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes "over dinner in a small restaurant in Mrs. Kroes's home country of the Netherlands." The details, hammered out between courses:

"Under the agreement, Microsoft will license all of its intellectual property, except patents, necessary for competitors to work with a version of Windows used on business servers. Competitors will now pay only a one-time fee for the license of 10,000 euros, rather than royalties. If they believe they need to license patents from Microsoft, Microsoft is required to do so at the rate of 0.4% of the competitors' revenue from the product, well below the 5.95% rate originally suggested by Microsoft.

"Mrs. Kroes, for her part, stopped the clock on daily fines of up to €3 million per day against Microsoft and declared the U.S. software giant was – at least for now -- in Europe's good graces."

I'm not sure I see this as such a watershed moment as the EC seems to. Microsoft has been saying all along that it intended to comply fully with the communications-protocol documenation sharing demands; it conveniently never said how long it would take to do so. Years have gone by and Microsoft still hasn't delivered everything the court stipulated. (Windows isn't the only place where slip dates are more common than timely ship dates.)

Does this mean there is now a new deadline for Microsoft to comply fully? Beyond Samba, who still cares about this interoperability documentation and protocols? In both cases, I'm not sure. And -- all the EC rhetoric to the contrary -- I'm not sure how much it matters any more... especially to the consumers that this antitrust case was supposed to benefit.

Meanwhile, in other antitrust-related news, European regulators are extending the deadline for their investigation into Google's purchase of DoubleClick. The inquiry period originally was slated to end October 26; now it will end on November 13. Microsoft, Yahoo and other online-advertising companies are lobbying against the proposed Google-DoubleClick merger on antitrust grounds.

Back in the U.S., the Department of Justice has stated it is not in favor of extending oversight of Microsoft's antitrust compliance here in the States. While four more states have joined the original group of seven petitioning for five additional years of oversight, the DOJ believes that justice has been served and no extension of the November 12 deadline for oversight is necessary. A hearing on the matter is slated for November 6.