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Microsoft Gets 20-Day European Reprieve

Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) has won a 20-day reprieve from an order by the European Commission that could result in a fine of $4 million a day.

Microsoft has agreed to supply information that would help competitors make their servers compatible with Windows, but the commission said the software giant has not gone far enough to satisfy antitrust concerns. The new deadline, which was granted at Microsoft's request, gives the company until April 23 to answer the commission's statement of concern.

The delay appears to be administrative and is not surprising given the complexity of the issues involved and the sheer mass of information that must be provided.

The potential fine dates back to a 2004 decision by the European Court of First Instance which found Microsoft guilty of abusing its power by not sharing information that would allow competitors to build software that would be compatible with Windows. Microsoft is appealing the decision and the $613 million fine levied at the time.

One leg of the antitrust case related to the server issue, another to Microsoft's Media Player. Under the original order, Microsoft was ordered to build versions of Windows that do not contain its media player, which allows users to view and listen to various types of digital media.

The media-free player is now available in Europe, as well as South Korean, which issued a separate antitrust order.

Microsoft says it has supplied competitors with the information needed to make Linux or Unix servers compatible with Windows via a licensing program. The commission, though, isn't satisfied, saying that the cost of the licensing program is prohibitively high.

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