Microsoft will ask EU court to quash fines

Microsoft Corp. will appeal a Euro 280.5 million [m] fine levied Wednesday by the European Commission on grounds the company has worked to deliver the documents.

Microsoft will appeal the steep fine levied Wednesday by the European Commission (EC) on grounds that the company has worked closely to deliver the requested technical documents in the right format, the company's chief legal counsel said.

Brad Smith, speaking shortly after the Commission's decision, said the company has two months and 10 days to file an appeal after it is formally notified by the Commission. The fine is set at Euro 280.5 million ($US357 million), retroactive to a Dec. 15 deadline set by the Commission for documentation.

Smith maintained Microsoft is working closely with a trustee appointed by the Commission to vet the documentation, which is supposed to allow competitors to develop server products that work smoothly with Microsoft's Windows operating system.

The Commission alleges Microsoft's documentation so far has been inadequate and threatened since last November to impose a fine. Smith said the Commission's guidelines were vague, and the company has rewritten the documentation on request.

"This decision does not have the kind of clarity that would justify this type of fine," Smith said.

On another issue, Smith said Microsoft has made changes to the design of its newest operating system, Windows Vista, in response to concerns from the Commission. The company has offered to make further changes to the OS, scheduled for general release next year, since issues were first raised in a March 31 letter to Microsoft, he said.

One of those issues is whether or not Microsoft can include a company technology that competes with Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format (PDF), Smith said. Microsoft gave the Commission four options, including offering a version of Vista on the European market minus the feature, pending a decision by the European Court of First Instance.

That court is hearing Microsoft's overall appeal of the EC's March 2004 antitrust decision where the company was fined Euro 497 million.

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