EC Gives Microsoft Time To Think Things Over

The EC on Jan. 16 filed the charges and gave Microsoft eight weeks to respond. On Wednesday, EC spokesperson Jonathan Todd told Reuters that Microsoft's request for additional time had been granted, and the company now has until April 21 to respond.

The EC's stance is that by tying IE to Windows, Microsoft has been in violation of European competition law since 1996, and that the 2002 U.S. court decision on this same issue doesn't have any relevance in Europe.

European regulators have been wrangling with Microsoft for so long that details have begun to fade into the mists of history. In 2004, the European Union hit Microsoft with a then-record $613 million fine for abusing its "near monopoly" with Windows to squeeze competitors. The EU ordered Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player and to release programming code to rivals in the server market.

Last March, the EC slapped Microsoft with a $1.35 billion fine for overcharging open-source developers for Windows server operating system communications protocols. To date, European regulators have levied about $2.5 billion in fines against the software giant.

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The battle has also taken some bizarre turns, such as the EC's decision earlier this month to relax its monitoring of Microsoft's compliance with the 2004 antitrust ruling, and Microsoft's acknowledgment last week that it'll make it possible for Windows 7 users to disable Internet Explorer, something the company has long claimed was impossible to do without affecting the functionality of the OS.