BRUSSELS (AFP) — US software giant Microsoft has agreed to make "substantial changes" to comply with an EU ruling that it was abusing its dominant market position, the European Commission said Monday.
Among the changes is reducing the royalties it asks for interoperability information on its Windows computer programme to a "nominal" one-off payment of 10,000 euros (14,000 dollars) for rival firms.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes hailed the news as a "victory for the consumer."
Last month, the European Court of First Instance confirmed the European Commission's 2004 antitrust finding that Microsoft had used its ubiquitous Windows personal computer operating system to crush rivals in other linked markets, such as media players.
The court backed the Commission's imposition of a record fine of 497 million euros (690 million dollars) on the software giant.
A Microsoft spokesman told AFP Monday that the company would not appeal the court decision, signally the end of the long legal saga.
"The European Commission has ensured that Microsoft will now take the necessary steps to comply with its obligations ... regarding work group server operating systems," including making interoperability information available to rival software companies, the EU's executive arm said in a statement.
On top of the Microsoft agreement that software developers "will be able to access and use the interoperability information," the royalties for a worldwide licence, including patents, will be reduced from 5.95 percent to 0.4 percent, the Commission announced.
"In these agreements between third party developers and Microsoft, Microsoft will guarantee the completeness and accuracy of the information provided," the statement said, adding that the accords will be enforceable in the London High Court, along with the Commission's own enforcement powers.
"I welcome that Microsoft has finally undertaken concrete steps to ensure full compliance with the 2004 decision," said Kroes.
"It is regrettable that Microsoft has only complied after a considerable delay, two court decisions and the imposition of daily penalty payments," she added.
Billed as one of the biggest EU court judgements ever, the verdict holds huge stakes for Microsoft and for Europe's capacity to regulate corporate giants from all over the world.
The EU case goes back to March 2004 when the Commission ruled after a five-year probe that Microsoft had abused its share of the market for operating systems running personal computers thanks to its Windows programme.
In particular, it accused Microsoft of using its stranglehold on PC operating systems to elbow rivals out of the more competitive markets for media players that play music and videos, and operating systems running back-office servers.
The Commission ordered Microsoft to sell a version of Windows PC without a media player already bundled in and to share technical information with rivals needed to make products that could function with Windows.
Microsoft, until now, has fought back at every chance, arguing that customers prefer Windows to include a media player and that the Commission wanted it to turn over valuable trade secrets often protected by patents and copyright to competitors.
Brussels fined Microsoft a further 280 million euros in July 2006 after finding that it was not respecting its original ruling.
Kroes said that no more fines would be incurred after Monday but could not tell reporters in Brussels how much, if anything, Microsoft was still deemed to owe for its infringements
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