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Written by: Staff
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BRUSSELS, Mar 22 (Reuters) Microsoft Corp. said on Wednesday it is taking new voluntary actions to comply with European Commission sanctions, as it seeks to avoid fines of up to 2 million euros ($2.43 million) daily.

The Commission found two years ago that Microsoft used its dominant position with the Windows operating system to damage rival makers of server software used to run printers, password sign-ins and file access for small work groups.

The Commission said Microsoft never complied with sanctions designed to put competitive makers of work group servers on a level playing field and opened proceedings to fine the firm.

In its latest statement, the company said on Wednesday it would provide free, unlimited technical support to companies that license its protocols for work group servers.

''In addition to unlimited technical support, Microsoft is further augmenting the program by offering on-site assistance to licensees,'' the company said in a statement.

The European Commission said it had not been told about the offer so did not know any details, but that at first sight it seemed constructive.

''However, technical support is only helpful once the documentation has reached a certain quality standard .... he Commission's preliminary view is that the technical documentation still does not comply with the requirements of the decision,'' Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said.

A Microsoft official said the company had also been working with a monitoring trustee appointed by the Commission and had developed a checklist to deal with problems in the documentation.

''We will leave no stone unturned to overcome the compliance impasse,'' said Hoaraci Gutierrez, a general counsel for Microsoft in Europe.

The Commission has said Microsoft must provide interconnections so competitors could get their server software to run as well as Microsoft's own with Windows desktop machines.

The Commission said the company failed to provide adequate documentation, so competitors were unable to use it.

The Commission fined Microsoft 497 million euros for its violations and was also ordered to offer a version of its Windows operating system without audio-visual software.

It also imposed the sanction on the interconnections. Microsoft's latest announcement is one of a series it has made about steps taken to comply with the Commission decision.

Earlier this year, Microsoft offered to open some of its source code -- the blueprint of its software -- for server software to licensees, although the Commission's expert in the matter said that was neither desirable nor helpful.

Before the Commission can act on a fine, Microsoft has a right to a closed administrative hearing. It has exercised that right and the hearing is set for Thursday and Friday next week.

Microsoft asked for the hearings to be open. But the Commission, citing its regulations, turned down the request.

A separate court hearing, which is open to the public, will be held on Microsoft's challenge to the underlying decision. That five-day hearing before the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg will begin on April 24.

($1=.8236 euro) REUTERS SD PC1809

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