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MICROSOFT OPENS UP DATA TO EASE EU ANTITRUST ISSUES

Microsoft Corp. said Thursday it will share more information about its products and technology in an effort to make it work better with rivals' software and meet the demands of antitrust regulators in Europe.

European Union regulators, however, expressed skepticism, saying the softwaremaker did not address monopoly abuse in the past or allegations it seeks to undercut rivals by bundling Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system.

Microsoft said it will give away documentation and computer code needed to make outside applications work together with Office, Windows and others. In the past, Microsoft charged for this information.

The company will still charge a fee to companies that sell software built using this information. But chief software architect Ray Ozzie described the fees as "low royalty rates."

Microsoft said it posted 30,000 pages of documents online that level the playing field for non-Microsoft developers, and announced plans to add more.

Bob Muglia, a senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, said in an interview that those documents spell out exactly how Microsoft programs work together - allowing, for example, another company to build an e-mail system that works as well with Outlook as Microsoft's Exchange Server.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer, said the decision will have a relatively minimal impact on Microsoft's revenue.

Microsoft has spent years putting together such documentation in response to a decade of pressure from antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe. Analysts see the voluntary move as a way to placate the EU, which upheld a $613-million fine against the company last year and has since opened two new investigations into Microsoft's business practices.

EU regulators appeared unimpressed by Thursday's announcement.

"The Commission would welcome any move toward genuine interoperability," regulators said in a statement.

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