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March 30, 2006

Microsoft and EU trash talking before the bout

Posted by David Hunter at 9:08 AM ET.

Today’s the start of the European Commission hearing on Microsoft’s appeal of the large fines slapped on them for noncompliance with the EC’s antitrust directives and the two sides were getting in some verbal jabs before the bout started. Microsoft lead off with a press release, Tech Companies Say Microsoft Documents Enable Product Development, that quoted six firms, including EMC, as saying that Microsoft’s technical documentation of server protocols was just dandy:

The companies say they have successfully used that documentation to develop and release interoperable software products to the marketplace.

The EC seemed to be caught flatfooted, but quickly fired back:

“The reason for this hearing is purely a media exercise for Microsoft,” Cecilio Madero, senior Commission official leading the case at the two-day closed hearing, told reporters.

Then as the parties entered the hearing there was more:

“We have complied beyond the requirements of the Commission’s decision,” Microsoft’s top lawyer, Brad Smith, told reporters before the hearing. “Microsoft is willing to do more … Daily fines are not the solution.”

Microsoft says it has submitted 12,000 pages of documentation and will offer parts of its vital source code for work group servers as well as 500 hours of free technical support from Microsoft engineers.

But the Commission dismissed the Microsoft argument.

“Our independent trustee, who is advising the Commission and who was suggested to us by Microsoft, Professor Neil Barrett, has told us the document is, to quote, ‘totally useless’,” said Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd.

Microsoft, the Commission and third parties such as associations representing Microsoft’s rivals and technology pressure groups will take part in the hearing.

The information will then be assessed by the Commission, which will decide whether to fine Microsoft. This process is likely to take several weeks, the Commission said.

Todd also got in another zinger:

But EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said the company still has to comply with a 2-year-old antitrust order to share technical information with rivals.

“The best outcome for everybody would be that Microsoft were to finally do that,” he said.

One further note – Microsoft canceled a planned press briefing after today’s hearing:

Microsoft (MSFT) cancelled an 1115 GMT news conference on Thursday on a private EU hearing into whether it should be fined in an antitrust case after the hearing officer requested confidentiality.

“The Commission’s hearing officer made a clear request to all parties in the Microsoft oral hearing to respect the confidentiality of the process,” Microsoft said in a statement.

“Microsoft will respect this request and has therefore cancelled the press briefing.”

Go to your corners, come out swinging, and let’s have a clean fight! More seriously, does anyone expect Microsoft to come ahead on this hearing?

Filed under Antitrust, Coopetition, EMC, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal, Microsoft

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One Response to “Microsoft and EU trash talking before the bout”

  1. First day of Microsoft EU antitrust hearing -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Ingrid Marson at ZDNet (UK) has a detailed recounting of the first day of the Microsoft antitrust compliance hearing before the European Commission that we mentioned earlier today. It doesn’t look like the Commission is buying Microsoft’s arguments, but that isn’t unexpected. More hopeful is: Although the Commission appears unwavering in its decision that Microsoft has not complied with the order, the prospect for reaching a settlement on the fine may be greater, the source said. [...]

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