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Microsoft Vows Compliance With EU

From Reuters

Microsoft Corp. will implement all of the major changes to its new stripped-down version of Windows requested by the European Commission, the software giant said Tuesday.

The European Union’s executive body had ordered Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft to sell a version of the world’s dominant computer operating system without its Windows Media Player program after ruling that the company had abused Windows’ near-monopoly to crush competition and fining it nearly $650 million.

The commission’s order is meant to open the market for alternative software to play films and music from Seattle-based RealNetworks Inc., Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer Inc. and others, but the two sides disagreed over technical issues.

“Earlier today we contacted the commission and informed them that we have accepted all the main changes they have requested we make to the version of Windows without Media Player,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s top lawyer in Europe.

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The modifications include technical changes to registry settings and removing references in product documents and packaging that warn that certain products won’t work without Media Player, Gutierrez said.

Microsoft also agreed to create a software package allowing consumers to replace the absent media files, he added, which could be downloaded for free from the company’s website.

Commission spokeswoman Antonia Mochan said the EU executive body would closely examine Microsoft’s proposals.

Microsoft is appealing the commission’s landmark decision. Other disputes are still simmering, including over a second order to share information with rival makers of servers and the appointment of a trustee to monitor Microsoft’s compliance.

Microsoft may ultimately face fines of as much as $5 million a day if the commission finds it is refusing to comply with its decision.

Microsoft’s technical changes may pacify critics such as RealNetworks, which complained that removing Media Player also took out some multipurpose registry keys -- something Microsoft tells third-party developers not to do -- that can disable other programs.

The Windows registry is the database used to keep track of settings in the operating system and any programs that it is running.

Microsoft says the problem arose because Media Player is a core part of Windows, not a stand-alone application.

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Shares of Microsoft fell 28 cents Tuesday to $23.92 on Nasdaq.


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