Global Dispatches

An international news digest

Microsoft Hit With New Fines in Europe

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission last week fined Microsoft Corp. €280.5 million ($356 million U.S.) dating back to last December for failing to comply with the terms of a March 2004 antitrust judgment against the company.

Microsoft has already paid €497 million ($631 million) in fines as a result of the ruling itself, in which the EC found that the software vendor had used its near monopoly in the desktop operating systems market to gain advantages over competing IT vendors.

The EC proposed the additional fines for noncompliance two weeks ago, and antitrust regulators from the European Union's 25 member states unanimously approved the plan. The new fines amount to €1.5 million ($1.9 million) per day from Dec. 16 through June 20.

In addition, the EC threatened to increase the daily fines to €3 million ($3.8 million) if Microsoft doesn't comply with the antitrust ruling by July 31. To do so, the company needs finish releasing to rival vendors technical details about the communications protocols used by its workgroup server products.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said the company will appeal the fines in the European courts on the grounds that it has worked hard to deliver the requested technical documents. He reiterated Microsoft's contention that the EC's original instructions lacked clarity -- a claim that European officials dispute.

-- Paul Meller, Peter Sayer and Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

Intel Could Face Probe by German Regulators

BONN -- Germany's federal cartel office has received a complaint about Intel Corp.'s business practices from an unidentified competitor, putting the chip maker at risk of facing another governmental investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Bonn-based competition authority confirmed that the complaint was submitted earlier this month. She said the cartel office expects to decide this week whether it will launch a probe of Intel or forward the complaint to the European Commission.

Mathias Raeck, an Intel spokesman in Germany, denied any wrongdoing on the company's part. "We believe that we have a lawful business conduct," Raeck said.

The EC is already investigating Intel in response to a complaint filed by rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.; in June 2005, the EC raided Intel's offices in Munich and in Swindon, England. The fair trade commissions in Japan and South Korea have also investigated Intel's business practices.

Meanwhile, AMD has filed antitrust lawsuits in both the U.S. and Japan accusing Intel of coercing computer makers and distributors into signing deals to exclusively use its chips.

AMD wouldn't say last week whether it had filed the complaint against Intel in Germany. But a Paris-based spokeswoman for AMD said company officials "have spoken with the federal cartel office in Germany, and we will support its investigation" if one takes place.

-- Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service

Japan Eyes Tech Sales After Missile Tests

TOKYO -- Japanese companies are likely to face greater scrutiny on some international sales of IT equipment, following North Korea's launch of seven missiles into the Sea of Japan on July 5.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is now working to check suspicious trading between Japanese companies and businesses with suspected links to North Korea, said a Japanese government spokesman, who asked not to be identified.

Sales of both electronic and mechanical high-tech equipment to North Korea are regulated, but evidence has surfaced suggesting that much of the technology North Korea relies on for its military program comes from Japan.

This month's missile launches also prompted the Japanese government to ban visits to the country by a North Korean boat called the Mangyongbong-92. The ship is suspected of carrying components that can be used to build missiles from Japan to North Korea, a spokesman for Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at a press conference.

-- Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

U.K. Approves Order to Extradite Hacker to U.S.

LONDON -- U.K. Home Secretary John Reid this month approved an extradition request that would send a computer hacker to the U.S. to be tried for allegedly disrupting military and government systems in 2001 and 2002.

Gary McKinnon, a 40-year-old London resident, admits that he accessed the systems but claims he was researching UFOs and caused no damage. He has been fighting extradition on the grounds that the U.S. government could classify him as an enemy combatant, although the U.S. has said it plans to try him as a conventional defendant in a Virginia federal court.

McKinnon must appeal the extradition order by tomorrow. The charges against him include an allegation that he deleted system files and logs from computers at a U.S. Navy base in New Jersey, requiring about 300 systems to be shut down "at a critical time" immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to court documents.

-- Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

Academic Scandals Prompt New Measures

BEIJING -- China's Ministry of Science and Technology will form an independent watchdog organization to oversee funding for scientific research in the country, the state-run Xinhua news agency and China Daily newspaper reported last week.

The move follows high-profile academic scandals earlier this year, including the dismissal in May of the dean of Shanghai Jiaotong University's school of microelectronics after it was discovered that he passed off rebranded chips from Freescale Semiconductor Inc. as his own designs. The ministry will also build an interagency database to store detailed information on all applications for research funding, Xinhua reported on its Web site.

-- Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service

Briefly Noted

Accenture Ltd. last week said that it has opened a lab in Bangalore, India, that will do research and development work related to systems integration and software engineering. The lab will employ about 100 researchers, adding to Accenture's current total of 17,500 workers in India. A timetable for hiring the new employees wasn't disclosed.

-- John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Microsoft in September plans to give attendees at the annual Hack In The Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, an inside look at new security features in its Windows Vista operating system. Microsoft plans similar presentations at the Black Hat USA 2006 conference next month in Las Vegas, saying it wants to get feedback from security researchers to help make Windows Vista more secure.

-- Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. said it plans to expand a converged network covering the Visayas and Mindanao islands, in anticipation of more companies moving operations into southern regions of the country. The network allows voice, video and data traffic to be transmitted over a single fiber-optic line, according to Philippine Long Distance Telephone.

-- Lawrence D. Casiraya, Computerworld Philippines

McAfee Inc., in an effort to boost sales of its security software in China, has signed on two new resellers in that country. McAfee announced deals with Beijing-based search engine developer Inc. and Shanghai-based China United Telecommunications Corp., the country's second-largest mobile network operator.

Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

IBM marked its 50th year of doing business in Ireland this month by announcing plans to invest €46 million ($59 million U.S.) in the country and hire 300 additional workers over three years. IBM said it will use the funds to expand its Dublin software development operations.

-- Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service

Global Fact

  • $1.1B: Total revenue from sales of Ethernet switches in Japan last year. Cisco Systems Inc. generated 62% of the revenue, although it accounted for just 22% of unit shipments.

Source: Gartner Inc.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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