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Microsoft Meets EU Deadline; More Fines Still Possible

The documents will be evaluated and the protocols they outline tested; additional fines may yet be levied if the material doesn't meet muster.

European Union antitrust regulators last week confirmed that Microsoft had met the Thanksgiving Day deadline for submitting revisions to the technical documentation the American developer was ordered to produce by a March 2004 ruling.

The documents will be evaluated and the protocols they outline tested, the EU's Competition Commission said Thursday. Additional fines may yet be levied if the material doesn't meet muster.

"The commission will decide in due course whether or not Microsoft is in compliance with the obligation to provide complete and accurate technical documentation taking into account comments from the potential licensees and advice from the trustee," EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said in a press conference Thursday.

That evaluation process, added Todd during a Q&A session, will probably take months, rather than weeks. He refused to set a timetable.

Microsoft responded with a statement touting its turning over the last of the required documentation to the commission. "This is another important step in the process," Microsoft said. "The trustee and Microsoft have now completed the technical review and edits to the more than 100 documents, totaling 8,500 pages, that we submitted in July of this year, in accordance with the deadline established by the commission."

In July, the EU commission fined Microsoft $357 million for not complying with the original 2004 ruling. That decision required Microsoft to provide technical documentation on communication protocols so that competitors could create software that would work with Windows servers and PCs.

Two weeks ago, Commissioner Neelie Kroes warned Microsoft that if it didn't wrap up the documentation by Nov. 23 she might hit it with new fines of 3 million euros ($3.9 million) per day. At the time, Kroes showed impatience with Microsoft. "This information should have been here a couple of months ago," she was quoted in a story in The Guardian.

Although Microsoft considers the case closed, Todd said that the 3-million-euro-per-day fine could be backdated to July 31 if the commission and its technical expert, professor Neil Barrett, decide the documentation is lacking.

In the March 2004 ruling, the EU fined Microsoft 497 million euros (then $613 million) after a five-year investigation. Microsoft has appealed that ruling, as well as the July fine.

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