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July 12, 2006

Trouble for Microsoft: UPDATE

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Two weeks ago the head of the European Union threatened to make good on the $2.5 million dollar a day fines Microsoft was threatened with last December for failing to comply with the conditions of their 2004 antitrust decision. While I hoped it wouldn’t come to fines, today the European Union made it official.
The EU hit Microsoft with a hefty $357.3 million fine as a result of Microsoft’s continued resistance in handing over technical information to allow competitors to better fight off Windows. The final total represents a retroactive $1.5 million a day fine starting on Dec. 15, 2005 (the day the fines were first threatened) stretching to June 20.

Microsoft says the “unprecedented amount” of the fine is “unfair” and has vowed to appeal on the grounds the EU has “never been clear about what it wanted”.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel:

“We have great respect for the Commission and this process, but we do not believe any fine, let alone a fine of this magnitude, is appropriate given the lack of clarity in the Commission’s original decision and our good-faith efforts over the past two years.”

The EU says if Microsoft doesn’t hand over “complete and accurate” technical information to developers by July 31, the $1.5 million fines will be doubled to $3.82 million dollars a day.

It takes a lot for me to feel any sort of emotion (other than rage) when dealing with Microsoft. But this is getting close. What’s worse – if the EC rules Microsoft is still being uncooperative, legally they have the power to fine a company up to 5 percent of its annual global revenue. In Microsoft’s case, that would $5.47 million a day. We’re never going to see Vista.

I said two weeks ago that I agreed with Microsoft. I thought the fines were somewhat unfair and honestly believed everyone was going about things in the wrong way (no more copycat systems). I still feel that way, which is why I’m offering my support to Bill should he decide he needs it. I mean, I know a measly $357 million won’t break the Microsoft bank, but why take money away from other areas if you don’t have to?

Dear Bill: Hi, it’s me. I know, I haven’t written in awhile, but I want to help. I have some money I was saving for my wedding next year (by the way, you still haven’t RSVP’d), but if things get real bad, you’re more than welcome to use some of it. I mean, if it helps. You know how to reach me…

If you’re opposed to handouts, here are some quick suggestions I just came up with as to how you can make a little extra money on the side. I know how you hate dipping into Microsoft’s savings. Try and recruit Melinda too.

    1. Offer and pilot romantic weekend Seattle tours using the private jet. Perhaps called it “A Romantic Night with Bill and Melinda”. Catchy, right?
    2. Tell Warren Buffet you didn’t receive the first 37 billion dollar check he sent you. He’s over 70 and may not remember mailing it.
    3. Auction off your brain to research (to be collected posthumously, of course.)
    4. Buy Yahoo!, fix it up, and then sell it to Google for double your cost.
    5. Give in and buy the European Union.

Hope this helps!

P.S. – Give my best to Ray.





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