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Microsoft drops antitrust fight with E.U.

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KAI RYSSDAL: It didn’t take much to get Microsoft to knuckle under. Just close to a decade of legal fights. And a billion and a half dollars in fines with the possibility of billions more to come. Hordes of lawyers have spent the past nine years hashing out the arguments in courtrooms all over the European Union. But here’s the executive summary courtesy of our New York bureau chief Jill Barshay.

Microsoft’s been in court fighting European regulators since 2004. The company was considering appealing to the highest court in the E.U. before it backed down. Now it’s throwing open the doors to let competitors connect with its Windows operating system.

Jonathan Zuck is the president of the Association for Competitive Technology. His trade group is funded by Microsoft. He says Microsoft’s competitors no longer have to negotiate licensing fees each time they want to connect with Windows. Now they’ll pay a flat rate of 10,000 euros.

Jonathan Zuck: On top of that, there’s an optional patent license if they want to make their servers behave more like Microsoft’s servers.

Zuck says Microsoft is likely to adopt this new pricing structure worldwide. Big software companies like Oracle, Sun and even Linux are the big winners in this case. Now it’s easier for them to sell servers and products to companies that primarily use Windows.

Shane Coughlan of the Free Software Foundation says Microsoft’s capitulation might help to open the market up. But he says, Microsoft may continue to block competitors by demanding multiple patent fees.

Shane Coughlan: We need to interoperate. Computers need to be able to talk with each other. It’s been a real problem over the last decade that Microsoft has been reluctant to allow interoperability. We need to solve this. Otherwise, everyone will be locked into single solutions from one vendor.

Microsoft also has to pay a fine, but it’s not clear how much.

In New York, I’m Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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