Microsoft issues peace offering to settle EU case

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The Independent Online

Microsoft is offering a series of concessions to try to placate the European Commission and head off further regulatory battles with the Brussels regulator.

Microsoft is offering a series of concessions to try to placate the European Commission and head off further regulatory battles with the Brussels regulator.

The world's biggest software giant has been facing fines of $5m (£1.37m) a day for not complying with a order issued by the Commission in March 2004 forcing it to share information about its Windows operating system that would allow rival companies a chance of breaking into technology markets it dominates.

Microsoft said yesterday it would share information that it claimed would allow the "interoperability" that the Commission requires.

The dispute centres on the market for "work group server operating systems". These are the operating systems that run on central network computers which provide services such as file and printer sharing, security and user identities.

The Commission concluded last year that Microsoft had broken the law by deliberately restricting the interoperability between computers running on Windows, the vast majority, and non-Microsoft work group servers.

Although the Commission said yesterday it would consider Microsoft's proposals and test them with rivals, sticking points remain. Microsoft insisted yesterday that the information it provides should not be generally published under a so-called "open source licence" that would allow free software developers such as Linux, an open source rival to Windows, to take advantage of the agreement.

Neelie Kroes, Brussels' competition commissioner, said yesterday: "I remain determined to ensure that all elements of the decision are properly implemented. This includes the ability for developers of open source software to take advantage of the remedy."

The European Court of First Instance will rule on this dispute. Microsoft has, however, agreed to supply certain information making rivals' products compatible with Windows and also allow them to develop and sell their products on a global basis. Microsoft agreed to enhance the data it supplies, allowing rivals to choose data tailored to their needs. Some data will also be disclosed free of Microsoft royalty payments.

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