Earlier this week, the European Union's antitrust division levied a fine of $1.3 billion against Microsoft. The fine, which is the third fine stemming from the same dispute (the first was for violating antitrust law, and the last two were for refusing to comply with orders to change its business practices), brings the total up to $2.5 billion dollars in judgments against Microsoft.
According to Neelie Kroes, the E.U.'s competition commissioner:
"Microsoft's behavior did not just harm a few individuals or a handful of big companies. Directly and indirectly this had negative effects on millions of offices in companies and governments around the world."
What? Microsoft products having negative effects in company offices worldwide? You don't say.
To its credit, Microsoft got the message loud and clear, and changed its own messaging to fit the new, improved company stance on "playing well with others." Along these lines, the world's largest software company made a recent announcement that it would open-source some technical and programming data on its high-volume product catalog (Vista, Office, SQL Server, .NET, etc.) to improve interoperability and data portability between competing systems.
We should all be thankful to the E.U. for forcing Microsoft's hand on this -- and truth be told, so should Microsoft, as a robust ecosystem of empowered and innovative small developers (such as Linux provides) are able to fix bugs, develop products and fill gaps with more goods and services than even the most customer-friendly company -- something which Microsoft has never been accused of being -- could hope to provide.