Microsoft bends the knee to the EU regulators

Well, well. Telegraph report:

Since the ruling [by the European Court of First Instance], Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer has been in almost daily contact with Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for competition policy.

Following these intensive discussions, Microsoft has agreed to change the way it provides rivals with information that allows them to write programmes that mesh with Windows.

Microsoft will now make information available to open source developers, with licensing terms that allow every recipient of the resulting software to copy, modify and redistribute it in accordance with the open source business model.

In a statement today Ms Kroes said: “The Commission’s 2004 decision set a clear precedent against which Microsoft’s anti-competitive behaviour could be judged.

“Now that Microsoft has agreed to comply with the 2004 decision, the company can no longer use the market power derived from its 95pc share of the PC operating system market and 80pc profit margin to harm consumers by killing competition on any market it wishes.”

Microsoft has agreed to slash its requested royalties for a worldwide licence, including patents from 5.95pc to 0.4pc – less than 7pc of the royalty originally claimed.

The software group has also abandoned its demand for a royalty of 2.98pc of revenues from software developed using licensed information…

Later: This from GMSV:

Apparently, the key to reaching a resolution was to clear away all the lawyers and turn to personal diplomacy. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes became fast phone friends with daily calls over the past three weeks, and the deal was sealed in person over dinner at a little restaurant in the Netherlands (Ballmer had the crow en croute). “I sincerely hope that we can just close this dark chapter,” Kroes said later. “I feel a bit sad because it took so long, it took so many years, and during those many years consumers suffered from the fact that Microsoft didn’t go along with what the Commission asked it to do.” Microsoft mumbled something about continuing “to work closely with the Commission and the industry to ensure a flourishing and competitive environment for information technology in Europe and around the world.” There remain some outstanding issues, including how much of that accumulated fine the EU will impose, and in case Redmond starts backsliding, Kroes said, “Microsoft should bear this in mind. The shop is still open, I can assure you … there are a couple of other cases still on our desk.”

The message is meant for more than Microsoft. The EU continues to show a willingness to jump in where U.S. regulators won’t, and that has to be a sobering thought for companies like Intel, which looks like it’s getting a pass from the FTC, but has until January to answer EU charges that it violated antitrust rules by selling its chips below cost to strategic customers, among other things.

That “crow en croute” crack is nice.