EU May Fine Microsoft for Browser Shenanigans by End of March

Time heals all wounds, but it doesn't make fines go away. Microsoft may find that out this month if the European Union goes forth with plans to fine the software giant in the coming weeks. The fine, which could be significant, relates to Microsoft's failure to comply with a so-called browser ballot feature it agreed to implement in Windows in order to settle an EU antitrust investigation dating back more than a decade.

A little back history. The EU argued that Microsoft was giving itself an unfair advantage in the browser wars by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, leaving less savvy users without a choice in the matter. The solution? Present users with a screen allowing them to choose their preferred browser in Windows 7. This became known as the browser ballot.

Browser Ballot

Unfortunately for Microsoft, a technical error caused the browser screen to disappear following the roll-out of Service Pack 1. Under EU law, Microsoft could be fined up to 10 percent of its total annual revenue, or in the neighborhood of $7.4 billion dollars. While it seems unlikely the EU would punish Microsoft that harshly, it's been known to hand out heavy fines to tech giants, so it wouldn't be surprising if the fine surpassed $1 billion.

This is what Microsoft currently faces, and according to one of "three people familiar with the matter," the Commission wants to get this done by Easter break, Reuters reports. However, procedural issues could push back that time frame.