Are Microsoft's EU troubles over?

Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: It's all over but the shouting, between Microsoft and the European Union, or at least it will be once the software company writes a really big check. The two sides have been at odds over antitrust for years now. Marketplace's Stephen Beard's covering the story for us from London. Hello Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Kai.

RYSSDAL: Let's start with nuts and bolts, I suppose. Biggest fine in history for antitrust, out of Europe, why?

BEARD: In a word, defiance. Microsoft is being punished for its failure to comply with the commission's ruling in 2004 over this old issue of interoperability, the commission's claim that Microsoft wasn't doing enough to cooperate with rival software companies to enable them to write programs that will work seamlessly with Windows.

RYSSDAL: So the EU is fining Microsoft for not complying with previous orders that the EU had given. Microsoft has a whole lot of money in the bank. What can possibly motivate Microsoft to pay now?

BEARD: Well, this is the end of the case and Microsoft has given the indications that it will pay up, that it's not going to appeal any further. This is the end of the line. The total amount it's going to pay is something like $2.5 billion, not a huge amount of cash, really, for a company as large and as profitable as Microsoft, but there is further action in the wings. This isn't the end of Microsoft's European troubles.

RYSSDAL: Well, one of the things Microsoft has in the wings, of course, is this offer it's got on the table for Yahoo. Do you suppose that could invite further cooperation with European regulators? Last week it released all those technical documents. I mean, are they trying to be a good guy here?

BEARD: Well, Microsoft certainly is making all the right noises, but the European Commission's reaction to last week's declaration by Microsoft, was skeptical, to put it mildly. They said if this is a genuine change of heart by Microsoft we welcome it, but we're yet to be convinced. So, certainly I think Microsoft is going to see a lot more friction here in Europe, and it is possible that the commission could drag its feet over the Yahoo deal and create some difficulty, although, finally, when push comes to shove, personally, I doubt that they would attempt to block that deal with Yahoo.

RYSSDAL: Interesting. The never-ending saga of Microsoft and the European Union, it seems. Stephen Beard in London, thank you Stephen.

BEARD: Thank you Kai.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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