In 2004 Microsoft was hit with a 494m euro fine for anti-competitive behaviour (the whole bundling Windows Media Player with Windows debacle). In 2006 that was compounded by a 280m euro fine for not righting the wrongs of the 494m fine. In 2007 the appeal to the 494m fine has failed, simultaneously upholding the 280m fine.
Microsoft just cough up!?!
Yep, that was the (paraphrased) message from the European Commission this week after it finally ruled on the three year dispute:
"The Court of First Instance essentially upholds the Commission's decision finding that Microsoft abused its dominant position," said a statement from the court.
It dismissed just one minor part of the initial investigation concerned with invasive monitoring of the company's workings: "The Court criticises... the obligation imposed on Microsoft to allow the monitoring trustee, independently of the Commission, access to its information, documents, premises and employees and also to the source code of its relevant products."
That said, Microsoft now has no more get out cards and will have to pay the fines along with 80 per cent of the Commission's legal costs.
Of course, while this is a landmark win for anticompetitive rulings - particularly in the IT market - it could equally be argued that Microsoft has been able to get away with flogging anticompetitive software for an extra three years with the profits earning vastly more than the fines have cost it.
What this means for the future however is less clear. Will a stripped out (more) farcical Vista product be on its way? Will Microsoft spend more time making its core functionality work and less on players and media managers? Concerning the latter point, I sincerely hope so...