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9/8/2006
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Microsoft Threatens EU With Vista Delay

There they go squabbling again: Microsoft and the European Union just can't seem to get along. Now Microsoft is threatening to delay the release of Windows Vista in Europe.

Microsoft on Thursday threatened to delay the release of Windows Vista in the Europe Union unless EU antitrust regulators spell out the changes they demand in the operating system.

According to reports in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is waiting for a response from the EU's Competition Commission on proposals submitted last month to ensure that Vista is completely compliant with EU law, particularly the 2004 antitrust ruling against Microsoft that also slapped the American developer with a $610 million fine.

Microsoft warned that any delay in hearing from the Commission could mean the company will postpone releasing Vista. The statements Thursday repeated similar warnings in a recent company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In the Form 10-K Microsoft filed with the SEC in late August, it noted "uncertainties [about the EU decision] could cause Microsoft to modify product design and delay release dates for Windows or other products."

Returning fire late Thursday, the Competition Commission said it was Microsoft's responsibility to design Vista so that it met EU law, and not the Commission's job to sign off on the operating system before it releases.

"It is up to Microsoft to accept and implement its responsibilities as a near monopolist to ensure full compliance with EU competition rules and in particular the prohibition on abuse of a dominant market position,'' the commission said in the statement.

Microsoft and the Commission have talked several times over the past year about Vista's feature set, with the EU expressing concern about such things as an electronic document format scheduled for the OS that will compete with Adobe's PDF, search integration, and digital rights management.

In July, the EU added an additional $357 million to the 2004 $610 million for delays in meeting its obligations to provide technical documentation on several Windows protocols.

Microsoft may be wary of future fines because of a new fine structure, first published in June, that was made official Saturday, Sept. 2. The new schedule lets the EU punish companies in violation of antitrust laws with larger fines to larger companies at fault for longer periods of time. In particular, the new rate structure allows the Commission to apply much larger fines for repeat offenders.

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