Steve Ballmer witch Neelie Kroes
Blame the intimate atmosphere of the restaurant? About the fragrant delicacies they ingested? It is difficult to say whether it was the food or the environment, but certainly it is a dinner in Rotterdam between Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and the head of European antitrust Neelie Kroes that led to a surprising result: the big player from Redmond did not will contest the decision of the European Court of First Instance last month, ergo he will bow his head before the wishes of the Community authorities.
The doubloons at stake
A bow that could cost the company a lot: although these are modest figures given the size of the Corporation, the Wall Street Journal tries to reckon on the cost of peace . The authoritative financial newspaper calculates 497 million euros, those foreseen since the first antitrust decision, to which the 281 million euros of the second antitrust fine could easily be added if Microsoft decides, and is in the air, to renounce the appeal already presented for this specific portion of the penalties.
To these payments will also be added those of variable fines, ie the quantum required by the antitrust authorities as a daily penalty to Microsoft for each day that has passed since it should have “obeyed” the antitrust requests. A quantum that Kroes after dinner declared to be 3 million euros, with the count of the fine days that ends on the day of the dinner. All of this could force Microsoft to pay Brussels a check for over one billion euros . But the exact figures have not yet been established, nor is it certain that Microsoft on at least some of these does not want to subsequently file appeals. Moreover, the Financial Times recalls how Microsoft has already allocated something like 1.6 billion euros to deal with the complex of European sanctions.
The licensing issue
Yes, because the Brussels-Microsoft agreement is not so much about fines as it is about how interoperability will be ensured of competing middleware in Windows. We are talking about allowing software houses that compete with Microsoft to access certain Windows server protocols over which Ballmer and Kroes have been battling for years. Now Microsoft has agreed to allow its competitors to access those protocols by purchasing an ad hoc license that will cost them much less than initially required by the company: you will be able to access that information by paying a one-off fee. 10 thousand euros , rather than having to pay royalties to Microsoft. And especially, open source developers will also be able to access it .
If the licensees of the information then deem they also have to obtain patent licenses from Microsoft, then the Redmond big company will have the right to charge for these second licenses for 0.4 percent of the revenue expected by the competitor for the product it develops ( Microsoft initially charged 5.95 percent).
In the intentions of the European Commission, those data will serve all the company’s competitors although, as InformationWeek suggests, the market has changed dramatically since the antitrust process in Europe began and today the advantages to competitors that can derive from all this seem much more limited than they might have been years ago.
The comments of the US newspapers, which naturally closely follow the evolution of the Microsoft-Brussels affair, tend to focus on the role of the European antitrust, a role that they say today is strengthened , because Kroes & C. they have shown not only to be able to force a mega-corporation to operate within certain limits but also to be able to intervene on the policies with which a software house has its own code. There are even those, like Forbes, who argue that the successes of the European antitrust will affect the situation of other large US technology corporations that have come under scrutiny in Brussels. The name is that of Intel.
The Forgotten Windows N
In the three points touched by the Ballmer-Kroes agreement, the conspicuous absent is Windows N, the “light” version of Windows packaged at the request of the European authorities by the big Redmond. A version of the operating system without Windows Media Player that Microsoft has proposed as requested by the antitrust but which has not had any response on the market so far.
The statement released yesterday by Microsoft reads, among other things: “We will not appeal (…) and we will continue to work closely with the Commission and industry to ensure that information technology in Europe and in the rest of the world can continue to grow in a competitive environment “. A statement that Kroes said on the day that he was happy.