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Microsoft gets deadline on EU antitrust order

Neelie Kroes, the European Union's top antitrust official, gave Microsoft Corp. until November 23 to comply with an EU antitrust order or face daily fines of as much as €3 million ($3.8 million).

Microsoft, which was fined €280.5 million in July for flouting an EU ruling, still hasn't provided complete information to competitors on how its Windows operating system communicates over a network, the European Commission, the EU's Brussels-based antitrust authority, said in a statement today. “As of today, the commission has not received the complete documentation regarding all relevant protocols that is required to comply with its March 2004 decision,” the regulator said. The company must comply by November 23 so that competitors can review the documentation by the end of the month, the commission said. The latest threat increases the pressure on Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft. The commission accuses the company of abusing its 95% share of the personal computer software market to crush competition. The EU levied a €497 million fine in March 2004. Microsoft is appealing that ruling and a decision by the European Court of First Instance is expected next year. Microsoft said in a statement today that it is “committed to full compliance” and has assigned a team of 300 people to meet the EU's demands. “We have responded quickly and completely to all requests and queries on the technical documentation since the July deadline and have made very significant progress,” the company said in the statement. “We stand ready to do any additional work that is required to comply with the commission's decision.” The EU's move comes as Microsoft, the world's largest software company, prepares to ship a new version of Windows to business customers at the end of the month after making changes demanded by the EU and South Korea. Kroes told Microsoft in July that wrapping search and security features into the new program may prevent consumers from using competing products. (Bloomberg)