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3/31/2006
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Microsoft Gets Help From U.S. In EU Battle

A U.S. software expert is scheduled to testify at the European Commission meeting on Microsoft, refuting claims that Microsoft's software documentation is "totally unusable."

A U.S. software expert, scheduled to testify at Friday's European Commission meeting on Microsoft, will seek to refute earlier claims that the software giant's instruction manual was "totally unusable," according to a Washington trade association.

The U.S. expert, Dave Sommer, is vice president for Electronic Commerce for the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). CompTIA spokesman Michael Wendy said Sommer has examined the documentation that was provided by Microsoft last year and reviewed and commented upon by EU consultant Neil Barrett.

A CompTIA statement said Sommer "will state that the quality and usability of the documentation is comparable to, or exceeds, other similar documentation employed in the software industry." Sommer, a 25-year veteran of the computer industry, prepared a pre-recorded video and teleconference statement for delivery to the EU commission that is studying whether to fine Microsoft $2.4 million daily for allegedly violating EU business regulations.

The CompTIA spokesman said the trade association couldn't discuss the situation further, because the presentations and deliberations at the EU regulatory agency are private.

CompTIA is a Washington-based trade association that has argued for years that the European regulatory action against Microsoft is unwarranted primarily because the European market is exceptionally competitive.

Barrett, a former computer hacker turned digital crime forensic expert from the U.K., was among the specialists Microsoft recommended to review its documentation for the EU. In a scathing review -- he said "There is apparently no structure and no logic in the whole documentation" -- Barrett set off a firestorm.

Microsoft accused him of colluding with its competitors, and that was quickly denied while Barrett's supporters said he was scrupulously fair. Particularly galling for Microsoft was the fact it has to pay Barrett's EU salary to critique its work.

Microsoft received additional help from Washington Thursday when the U.S. mission to the EU said the Microsoft case in Brussels has caused "substantial concern to the U.S." While the U.S. government has made no official complaint about the EU's case against Microsoft recently, there were several published reports indicating that U.S. diplomats had met with European counterparts this week to discuss the issue.

In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department sided with Microsoft in complaining about the EU regulatory action against the software firm.

In hearings in Brussels this week, Barrett, a native of the U.K., gave details on his frustrating efforts to use Microsoft's documentation that it had presented to competitors, according to published reports. The meetings have been closed to the press.

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