Could the EU fines delay Vista?

Written by Brett Thomas

September 8, 2006 | 18:48

Tags: #vista

Companies: #eu #microsoft

Though many people celebrated when the EU smacked Microsoft down with the biggest fine in history, it might have the opposite of desired effects. Now that the company has to tailor make EU distribution packages, the whole of Europe might face serious delays in new software like Vista. At least, that's what a few MEPs (Members of European Parlaiment) seem to think.

The majority of the hullibaloo seems to come from Microsoft's latest filing with the American Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It recently filed its annual report (10-k), where it outlines the EU rulings as a "risk factor" (Page 14 of the filing). This is far from a little, insignificant note on the bottom of a paper - it means that Redmond views the EU requests (and subsequent sanctions) as one of the top threats to its profitability in the upcoming year.

Because of this, the EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes received a rather scathing letter from four MEPs (three British, one Polish), explaining their concerns that such harsh action will injure the citizens of Europe while padding the coffers of the EU. They believe that by asking Microsoft to make special versions of software (or pay fines far heavier than the profits earned), that the company will simply end up delaying European releases in order to accomodate. So while the rest of the world enjoys Vista, Office 2007, and other MS products, the whole of Europe will have to wait while Microsoft goes back over the code to remove all traces of banned elements.

The four MEPs may not be too far off, either - the Competition Commission has already issued warnings to Microsoft about Vista's potential contents. The software giant has responded by saying it may have to delay Vista in Europe if the legal questions cannot be cleared up, rather than face more fines. Commissioner Kroes doesn't seem to care much about that, though, issuing a statement that put the blame on Microsoft if any delays occur.

"It is not up to the Commission to give Microsoft a definitive 'green light' before Vista is put on the market," the statement read. "It is up to Microsoft to accept and implement its responsibilities as a near monopolist to ensure full compliance with EU competition rules." Whether Kroes understands the inherent difficulty in sorting through millions of lines of code to remove all references of certain products (like Windows Media Player) that are designed to be a part of the OS was not covered in the statement.

Do you have a thought on the legal tango that the EU and Microsoft seem to be dancing? Will you be upset if you can't buy it in Europe because it hasn't been scrubbed to regulatory satisfaction? Let us know your thoughts in our forums.
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