John Paczkowski

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European Commission Announces Microsoft Antitrust Fine Ultimate Edition™

If Microsoft (MSFT) believed its “new” commitment to interoperability would curry favor with the European Commission it was mistaken. Sorely mistaken.

This morning the EC slapped the software giant with another $1.35 billion in fines for failing to comply with its 2004 antitrust order. “Microsoft was the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy that the commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision,” European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes said. “I hope that today’s decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft’s record of noncompliance with the commission’s March 2004 decision and that the principles confirmed by the Court of First Instance ruling of September 2007 will govern Microsoft’s future conduct.”

The fine is the largest the EU has ever imposed against a single company in an antitrust case and brings Microsoft’s total European antitrust tab to about $2.5 billion, in current exchange rates. Quite a sum, to be sure. But for Microsoft, one that could easily come out of the “Found Beneath Bill Gates’s Couch Cushions” fund. Said Jeremy Allison, co-creator of the open-source workgroup file-and-print-server software Samba, “That’s not a fine, that’s just a way of getting their attention.”

In a statement, Microsoft said it was “reviewing the commission’s actions,” adding that the fine concerned past issues it thought had been resolved. “As we demonstrated last week with our new interoperability principles and specific actions to increase the openness of our products, we are focusing on steps that will improve things for the future,” the company said.

But Kroes wasn’t having any of it. “Talk, as you know, is cheap,” she said this morning. “We don’t want talk and promises.”