The European Union said yesterday its antitrust regulators might need several weeks to decide whether to slap Microsoft with huge fines...
BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Union said yesterday its antitrust regulators might need several weeks to decide whether to slap Microsoft with huge fines once a deadline of midnight tonight expires for the software maker to comply with a landmark ruling.
“This is highly complicated stuff, and therefore we will see what they come up with and analyze it carefully,” said Jonathan Todd, spokesman for the European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm. “Once the deadline has expired, it will take several weeks to analyze what’s on the table,” Todd said.
Both sides worked over the weekend to reach a compromise. The talks have centered on pricing and royalties that can be charged to allow software competitors access to Microsoft’s Windows source code so they can better dovetail their products with the platform.
“We continue to work hard with the EU commission toward an agreement on compliance,” Microsoft spokesman Tom Brookes said.
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The EU can fine Microsoft up to 5 percent of its daily global sales for each day a decision is not applied to the EU’s satisfaction.
After the analysis, the commission “will either conclude that it is sufficient or not, in which case we will set in motion the procedure for fining them,” Todd said.
In March 2004, EU antitrust regulators fined Microsoft a record $624 million when they ruled the company abusively wielded its Windows software domination to lock competitors out of the market.
The orders of the European Commission require Microsoft to share under certain conditions its Windows server code with rivals to make the industry more competitive in the European marketplace.
Last month, the regulators were still not convinced the Windows version the company was forced to produce without Media Player was technically up to standard.
A Microsoft source said pricing disagreements on what the software giant could charge for opening its system were among the most pressing issues now.
“Pricing is certainly a question on the interoperability side — on the protocol side. What royalties can be specifically charged on the protocols” to improve interoperability, the person said.
Microsoft has said it would give competitors a price break on reviewing source code and more time to decide whether they wanted to license it.
During the last high-level contacts in April, EU antitrust chief Neelie Kroes held talks with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at Ballmer’s request to seek a breakthrough in the five-year standoff.