Microsoft Gets Delay on EU Antitrust Fines

In December, the European Commission gave Microsoft until January 25, 2006 to comply with requirements of a 2004 antitrust ruling, threatening the Redmond software giant with fines of up to $2 million per day if it failed to do so. Microsoft has now been granted an extension until February 15, 2005, to respond to complaints the company has failed to adequately document key portions of the Windows’ operating systems internal components.

Under the EU antitrust ruling, Microsoft is required to document and license key protocols used by Windows to provide various functions, such as workgroup printing, file sharing, and inter-computer communication. The European Commission found, by way of an third-party trustee appointed in part by Microsoft, that Microsoft’s documentation was inadequate and incomplete. Microsoft, for its part, claims that the EU’s current demands are moving the goalposts after the game has started, and complying with the current version of the requirements would open the door to products cloning portions of the Windows operating system. The European Commission granted the extension so they had more time to study Microsoft’s response.

The EU isn’t the only regulatory agency taking issue with Microsoft on antitrust compliance. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice said yesterday that Microsoft is dragging its feet since mid-November on providing some of the protocol documentation required under the famous 2002 Microsoft antitrust settlement. Microsoft admits the documentation is tricky work, but has been having trouble finding enough skilled developers and space for them to complete the work. According to the Seattle Times, Microsoft outsourced some of the documentation work to China, but lack of secure facilities have hampered progress, and the company is trying to obtain visas so some of the Chinese programmers can work in Redmond.