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$5m daily fine beckons for bad boy Microsoft

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Although the European Commission's statements are diplomatic to the point of opacity, there's no mistaking what it thinks of the latest turn in the Microsoft antitrust saga. The Commission doesn't think Microsoft's trying hard enough, and it has canvassed widespread industry support to bolster its position. From a Microsoft document unearthed by ZDNet, and still available here [PDF 450kb], we can see why even long time Redmond partners are losing their patience.

Microsoft's answer to its punishment is typical: seeing it as an opportunity for a new revenue stream. It has a precedent: Microsoft's proposal to individual States, including California, would be an in-kind donation of PCs to schools, for which Microsoft could later collect royalties. Let's see how it's gone about charging for its punishment in Europe.

Suppose you create network software or hardware that needs to talk to a Microsoft file system. It could be a printer, of a storage device, or a piece of middleware. As a licensee you must agree to pay Microsoft $50,000 up front in Prepaid Royalties. Then depending on the number of users your product has, you pay on a per user basis depending on what's accessed. For the 'Print and File Server' portion you pay on a user basis up to $1900, but no less than $80 per server. For workgroup access (Domain Controllers command a higher royalty) you pay up to $600, but no less than $100 per server.

You'll need to keep accurate records, for Redmond auditor's can drop in at 14 days' notice. Failure to satisfy Microsoft auditors risks a fine of 5 per cent of the royalties, or $50,000 - or whichever is higher.

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