The European Commission appointed a British computer scientist yesterday to oversee whether Microsoft is complying with a 2004 antitrust...
BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Commission appointed a British computer scientist yesterday to oversee whether Microsoft is complying with a 2004 antitrust decision.
The announcement came as EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes met with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, for talks.
Kroes refused to divulge specific details from the meeting other than to say the talks were “constructive.” Ballmer did not comment to the media.
The appointment of information technology expert Neil Barrett as a trustee to monitor Microsoft’s compliance ends two of three points of dispute between EU regulators and the software giant, leaving open a question over Microsoft’s perceived foot-dragging in providing rival software makers some cost-free, additional access to part of its computer code.
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The trustee’s job is to provide impartial expert advice to the European Commission on Microsoft’s compliance with the EU antitrust order. Microsoft was allowed to suggest three names for the EU head office to choose from.
Barrett, a visiting professor at Cranfield University in Britain, is an expert in Internet crime and fraud and has previously advised the British government on computer cases involving everything from pedophiles to hackers.
Kroes said she and Ballmer “discussed a broad range of competition issues” and that they also committed to meeting in the future “on a regular basis.”
The EU antitrust chief reiterated her warning to Microsoft after the talks that she would hold it to implementing the EU’s 2004 decision.
EU regulators ruled last year that Microsoft had abused its near-monopoly in desktop computer systems to illegally dominate the media software market and threaten the position of competitors selling office networking software.
The commission fined Microsoft $599 million and ordered it to share code with rivals and offer an unbundled version of Windows without the Media Player software.
Microsoft is appealing the ruling, but in the meantime has produced a Windows version without its Media Player.
The major point of dispute remaining is over the EU’s insistence that Microsoft give other IT firms access to some source code — software blueprints that allow competing products to interact with Microsoft servers.
Microsoft and EU regulators have not been able to agree on which material should be free and which codes should be paid for.
Earlier this month, Kroes said her department had received new informal complaints about Microsoft, perhaps leading to the opening of a new case.