October 7, 2009

Microsoft Near Agreement With EU Commission

Negotiations between software giant Microsoft and the European Union may be near settlement after Microsoft made concessions to address antitrust concerns.

The EU's competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said Wednesday that she had "good grounds for thinking we are moving towards a very satisfactory resolution."

According to Bloomberg, Kroes hopes both cases will be resolved by the end of the year.

"This is a trustful deal that we're making. I trust Microsoft," she said in a press briefing in Brussels.

Microsoft is currently involved in two antitrust cases with the EU.

The first case includes complaints over Microsoft's practice of including its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows operating system, which affected consumers' choices in browsers.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said the company held "extensive discussions with the commission over the last month, during which we agreed to make numerous changes to improve (our) proposals."

"The commission's preliminary view is that Microsoft's commitments would address these competition concerns and (it) is market testing Microsoft's proposal in light of these requirements," the EU said in a statement.

Smith highlighted the decision as a significant step toward closing a decade-long chapter of competition law concerns in Europe."

The commission also launched a case with Microsoft stemming from complaints of the way it bundles certain software with its Windows OS.

In September 2007, Microsoft lost it appeal to Europe's second-highest court against a $660 million fine imposed by the EU for abusing its dominant market strength.

In August, Microsoft made concessions to allow users with an option to install Internet Explorer or another browser. The company also made new proposals to the interoperability of installed applications on its software.

Microsoft vowed to "ensure that developers throughout the industry, including in the open source community, will have access to technical documentation to assist them in building products that work well with Microsoft products."

The EU commission said it plans to launch an investigation that would include taking comments from consumers and clients to gain feedback on Microsoft's updated offer.

"It's very important for us to resolve the competition law issues that have been on the agenda for more than a decade," said Microsoft's Smith.

However, Norwegian browser maker Opera responded to Microsoft's plan on Wednesday, stating that it did not go far enough.

"The proposal announced today will not effectively remedy the abuse. But it can be made effective with modest changes," Reuters quoted Opera's Chief Technology Officer Hakon Wium Lie.


On the Net: