Microsoft to appeal $1.6 billion EU fine

Appeal comes after compliance with directive. By Elizabeth Montalbano

Microsoft is appealing the €899 million (NZ$1.69 billion) fine imposed on it by the European Union for failing to honour a 2004 antitrust agreement.

Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans said via e-mail recently that the company has filed an application with the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg to annul the European Commission (EC) decision of February 27, which imposed the fine against Microsoft.

"We are filing this appeal in a constructive effort to seek clarity from the Court," the company said in a statement. It is not commenting further.

Microsoft finally came into compliance with its EU antitrust ruling — which originally surrounded Microsoft's bundling of Windows Media Player into the Windows client OS — in October. Microsoft had fought for several years to overturn the original ruling and imposed fine of then around €497 million, but lost its appeal in September.

When the EU imposed the latest fine, which was for non-compliance up to October 22, Microsoft said it would review the action. The February fine punished Microsoft for failing to license protocols for communicating with its software — primarily its Windows OS — to open-source developers at what the EC considered a fair price.

The latest fine came less than a week after Microsoft tried to appease the commission by unveiling sweeping changes in the way it will give third parties access to technology protocols for its Windows and Office products. The plan, which Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hailed as a "significant change" in how the company shares information, called for publishing, on its website, documentation for APIs (application programming interfaces) and communications protocols that are used by high-volume products such as Windows client and server OSes, Office and other business software.

Since February, Microsoft has published tens of thousands of pages of documentation for protocols online and made them openly available to developers. It has said it will continue on this path to promote more interoperability between its products and those of third parties.

To date, Microsoft has faced nearly €1.7 billion in antitrust fines in the EU.

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