Microsoft Corp. on Monday abandoned its nine-year antitrust fight with European regulators, saying it won’t appeal a judgment handed down last month, and will agree to “substantial changes” required by the European Commission.
The move sounds a warning for other market-dominating companies doing business in Europe under the current regulatory climate. It also marks the second retrenchment for Microsoft before international antitrust regulators in as many weeks, signaling a possible effort by the world’s largest software company to put its travails behind it and shift an unwelcome spotlight onto younger rivals.
On Tuesday, Microsoft asked to withdraw its appeal of an adverse ruling by South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission. That request has since been accepted by the Seoul High Court.
Monday’s decision in Europe comes after the European Court of First Instance last month confirmed a similarly adverse finding by the European Commission in 2004 that Microsoft used its popular Windows operating system to elbow rivals out of related markets.
Changes Microsoft agreed to on Monday include a new willingness to slash the royalties it charges rivals for interoperability information on its Windows software, to a one-time fee of 10,000 euros ($14,300). In addition, Microsoft has agreed to “publish an irrevocable pledge” not to assert its many patents against “non-commercial open source software development projects” accessing that interoperability information, the commission said.
European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in the statement that, “I welcome that Microsoft has finally undertaken concrete steps to ensure full compliance.”
Kroes noted that the interoperability information, or data designed by Microsoft to help competitors make compatible products, “appears to be substantially complete.” In the recent past, Kroes has criticized Microsoft for supplying incomplete interoperability information.
Microsoft, which was fined nearly half a million euros in 2004 and a further 280.5 million euros ($401 million) in 2006 for non-compliance, faced the prospect of steep new fines if it did not accommodate the commission. “There is no reason to impose further penalties on Microsoft as of this day,” Kroes said.
“At the time the Court of First Instance issued its judgment in September, Microsoft committed to taking any further steps necessary to achieve full compliance with the commission’s decision,” a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. “We have undertaken a constructive discussion with the commission and have now agreed on those additional steps.”