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April 1, 2006

Microsoft claims EU hearing “breakthrough,” others scoff

Posted by David Hunter at 9:39 AM ET.

The two day EU Microsoft antitrust hearing wound up yesterday with the participants putting widely varying spins on what the outcome was. Paul Meller at InfoWorld:

Microsoft left a two-day antitrust hearing in Brussels Friday claiming it had reached a breakthrough with European regulators in a dispute that may still result in the company being fined up to €2 million ($2.4 million) a day.

But the claim of a breakthrough was exaggerated, according to two other people involved in the closed-door hearing — one person representing rival software companies and a person close to the European Commission, the European Union’s top antitrust authority.

Barrett “described in greater specificity than we have ever received before” ways the documentation should be “changed and improved,” Smith said. “Certainly for our engineers who had the opportunity to talk directly with professor Barrett during these two days, we finally started to get the kind of engineering guidance that we need,” Smith said.

Barrett has been ordered to not talk to journalists, but Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said no new plan was presented. “He is an advisor, he doesn’t make plans,” Todd said.

“There was no new plan,” said Thomas Vinje, a partner in the Brussels office of law firm Clifford Chance. Vinje represents a software industry trade group called the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, comprising some of Microsoft’s biggest competitors including Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Barrett said at the end of the hearing Friday that his initial doubts about the value of Microsoft’s documentation were confirmed, according to Vinje.

“In his final summing up he talked about ways forward by identifying the problems Microsoft must solve. That’s not a plan,” Vinje said.

“The only plan professor Barrett has presented was in January, when he proposed that he work with Microsoft engineers to improve the documentation,” Todd said. The professor went to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, in January to begin the collaboration, Todd said.

There was speculation that the claim of a “breakthrough” was a face saving way for Microsoft to give in on the documentation issue and avoid fines. Next step is a decision by the hearing officer which is due in a few weeks.

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

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One Response to “Microsoft claims EU hearing “breakthrough,” others scoff”

  1. EU to impose Microsoft fines? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] When we last visited the EU’s European Commission and their plan to fine Microsoft up to €2 million a day, Microsoft was touting an April hearing as a “breakthrough” because they claimed they finally found out what documentation would satisfy EC complaints. Meanwhile, earlier this month EC competition honcho Neelie Kroes was entertaining the crowd with her crusty schoolmarm bit: Today the EC’s competition commissioner Neelie Kroes again reminded the software giant that the daily penalty would be imposed – and backdated to December – if Microsoft didn’t supply adequate documentation. [...]

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