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MS & the EU Commission - Calling Out the US Cavalry? Updated 2Xs
Friday, March 31 2006 @ 01:09 PM EST

[ UPDATE: Microsoft's lawyer claims a "breakthrough", as he leaves the session:
"As I said in the hearing, I believe that we have had a breakthrough," Brad Smith told reporters at the end of the two-day hearing into the Commission's plan to start fining Microsoft 2 million euros ($2.4 million) a day....

Some rivals of Microsoft said they had heard nothing new from the software giant at the closed-door hearing, run by independent arbitrators.]

[ 2d UPDATE: More details from Bloomberg News on the "breakthrough," which now appears to be a bit of bluster:

Smith said the EU-appointed trustee Neil Barrett had provided more details on how to comply with the demands during a meeting with Microsoft engineers.

Barrett "described some further details about what should be included and the style in which it should be written," Smith said. "It gives us the start of a real blueprint."

Oh, you want the documentation to be *usable." That's clear now.

Let me guess. I'm guessing they will need more time now to implement their new-found understanding of what is required. No one else quoted in the Bloomberg article noticed a breakthrough at the hearing:

Carlo Piana, a lawyer for the Free Software Foundation Europe, which represents developers of programs such as Linux, said in an interview that he was surprised Smith saw a breakthrough in the case. Trustee Barrett, who visited Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington in January, has been meeting regularly with Microsoft engineers, Piana said.

"He didn't say there was a new plan," Piana said. "The plan is to comply, and the goal post is there. The goal is set and it doesn't change."]

It will take a couple of weeks before we learn the EU Commission's decision on Microsoft. However, we do know that a memo urging the Commission to be "fair" to Microsoft was sent by US government officials and the same letter went to 25 national governments, according to the New York Times [sub req'd].

Your tax dollars at work. And IBM's tax dollars. And Sun Microsystems' tax dollars. And Novell's tax dollars. And Red Hat's tax dollars. And Oracle's. Hmm. So, the US government takes a stand against all those companies and on Microsoft's behalf? No, no, they profess, according to IDG:

"We are careful not to take a position on the accuracy of Microsoft's accusations, but if they were true they would be a matter of concern," the diplomat said.

This isn't the first time the U.S. government has intervened in the European antitrust case against Microsoft. "There was frenetic political activity in the build-up to the March 2004 antitrust ruling," Todd said.

So, the US government isn't taking sides. It just looks like it is taking sides. Which is a pressure of its own, not that it did a particle of good in 2004, I notice.

The Times story adds this:

United States diplomats visited the offices of three European commissioners earlier this week. Jonathan Todd, the spokesman for the competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, confirmed that her close aides met American diplomats this week and received the memo. He declined to comment on its content.

The diplomats also visited the offices of the internal market commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, and Gunter Verheugen, vice president of the commission, according to the person close to the commission.

A United States official denied that the American government was coming to Microsoft's aid in the antitrust dispute. "Our interest is less that than wanting to see that everything is done properly," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the tenuous nature of the matter.

Uh huh. The Times story says the memo was written by unidentified persons:

A memo written by unidentified government officials in Washington stated that Microsoft's complaints raise "substantial concerns" about the way Microsoft is being treated, according to a person close to the commission who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the memo. The memo was distributed this week through embassies in Europe and through the United States mission to the European Union in Brussels.

However, Reuters reports that the subject of Microsoft didn't come up when "senior European Union and U.S. competition officials met in Washington on Thursday, a European Commission spokesman said on Friday."

Bloomberg news informs us that an ex-Microsoft lobbyist, C. Boyden Gray, is now the head of the US's EU Mission:

Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, is getting U.S. government support for its complaint that European Union antitrust regulators have denied access to evidence needed for the company's defense.

Microsoft's complaint raises "substantial concerns," U.S. diplomats in Brussels said in a memo sent to the European Commission this week.The U.S.'s EU mission is led by C. Boyden Gray, a former White House counsel who lobbied on behalf of Microsoft during its battle with the U.S. Justice Department.

Ah, now the mist is clearing. Here's some background information on C. Boyden Gray:,39020645,39212457,00.htm

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