from the desk of IEEE Spectrum contributor Morgen Peck
Europe''s second highest court has upheld a 2004 antitrust ruling against Microsoft with a sentence carrying a fine of 497.2 million euros, the equivalent of US$689.4 million. In addition, the company must change some policies which the courts have argued aggressively stultify competition and undermine consumer rights.
In the past, Microsoft has packaged Media Player software into its operating system instead of giving buyers a choice of software, a practice the company has revised during its protracted court battle. But, Microsoft will take its biggest blow in the way it handles intellectual property. The ruling requires that Microsoft now share information with other software companies enabling them to write compatible programs.
Brad Smith, a senior vice president at Microsoft, did not say whether the company will file another appeal, and in a press conference signaled that the company would respect the sentence. ''We''re 100 percent committed to complying with every aspect of the commission''s decision,'' he said. However, some of his true feelings about the ruling may have come out in subtle tones as he denounced the requirement to share software code with other companies and pointed out the ''unprecedented nature of that obligation.''
The United States dealt with Microsoft''s practices years ago. On 30 August the Department of Justice and several U.S. states saidsaid that their efforts had ''protected the development and distribution of middleware''including web browsers, media players, and instant messaging software''that has increased choices available to consumers.''