When informed on July 2 of the missing browser ballot, Microsoft crafted a fix, tested it, then began pushing it to Windows 7 SP1 users on July 3. The update should reach all affected EU users by the end of this week, Microsoft said.
The Redmond, Wash. developer has also hired an outside legal firm to conduct an investigation into how the technical error, as it described it, occurred. The lawyers' report will be forwarded to Almunia's agency when it is completed.
Under EU law, the Competition commission can levy fines as high as 10 percent of a company's annual revenue, putting Microsoft's potential liability at an astounding $8.9 billion. Microsoft's global revenue for the five quarters starting Jan. 1, 2009, totaled $89.5 billion. If only the last four quarters -- starting April 1, 2011 -- were considered, the fine could still reach $7.3 billion, based on Microsoft's revenue during those 12 months of $73 billion.
Almunia was especially concerned at the repeat nature of Microsoft's offense, and said that would be taken into consideration if or when a fine was decided. "Non-compliance with an Article 9 commitment has never occurred in the past," said Almunia, referring to promises companies make when they settle with the EU prior to formal charges being filed. "This is the first time that this has occurred."
He may have been accurate about settlement commitments, but Microsoft has actually been punished before for not following orders to the EU's satisfaction.
Four years ago, Microsoft was fined $1.3 billion when the EU said the company thumbed it nose at an earlier ruling by continuing to charge an "unreasonable price" for licensed Windows' communication protocols. Last month, Microsoft lost its appeal of that fine when a EU court confirmed the punishment even as it reduced the fine by 4 percent.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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