BRUSSELS, Belgium – Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) new offer to let competitors examine some of the blueprints to its Windows operating system may not end the threat of daily $2.36 million fines in the European Union's antitrust case, an EU spokesman said Thursday.
"It would be premature to conclude that offering access to source codes would necessarily resolve the problem of compliance," said EU antitrust spokesman Jonathan Todd.
Todd said EU antitrust officials await details from Microsoft before making a decision.
"So far all we have received is the press release," he said.
Responding to a 2004 EU antitrust ruling, Microsoft in December offered rivals thousands of pages of documentation and free technical support to help competitors make their software compatible with Windows-based servers, which power Web sites and other Internet services.
But an independent monitor called the documents "totally unfit." The European Commission then threatened to fine Microsoft up to $2.36 million a day, retroactive to Dec. 15, saying the software giant was proving intransigent about sharing data with competitors.
Microsoft, which has until Feb. 15 to make a formal response, insisted Wednesday it was in compliance but said it was licensing the Windows source code as well to remove any lingering doubts. The company likened the move to now offering the cake rather than simply the recipe for it.
Microsoft said Thursday it was pleased that the EU Commission will consider the new offer.
"We have made every change the Commission has asked us to make to the technical documentation, and we are prepared to do more if they request it," Horacio Gutierrez, associate general counsel, Microsoft Europe, said in a statement. "Yesterday's announcement underscores Microsoft's commitment to meeting the Commission's demands."
Nonetheless, Todd said the source code alone may not do the trick.
"It's the quality and not the quantity that counts," Todd said in a phone interview. "You can give half-a-million pages, but if it's not the right information for competitors to be able to make compatible work group server products then it doesn't resolve the compliance issue."
In March 2004, the EU levied a record $613 million fine against Microsoft. It also ordered the company to share code with rivals and offer a version of Windows without the Media Player software for what the court saw as an abuse of the company's dominant position in the industry.
Microsoft is appealing the ruling and the case will be heard in late April by the European Court of First Instance, the EU's second-highest court.
Microsoft already has launched a number of efforts to give governments and certain private groups access to some source code. Wednesday's announcement extends this for the first time to more than 20 companies who currently license Microsoft software protocols under an EU program.
Microsoft will now share what it says is a "pretty significant" chunk of its Windows workgroup server operating system and desktop software code governing communications between servers. Smith said there were no plans to publish every line of the entire Windows source code.