Saturday, August 21, 2004

Neelie’s bloomers

One of the immediate responsibilities of competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, when she formally takes over her duties in November, will be to monitor the progress of the commission's action against Microsoft, and the reformulation of its Windows product range to conform with EU rules.

She will also have to counter Microsoft's appeal against the record €497 million fine imposed by the commission for abuse of its dominant market position, which is wending its weary way through the ECJ.

But there is a slender clues that the corporatist Neelie might not have her heart in busting Bill Gates's empire. The giveaway was eight years ago when in 1996 our girl, in one of her many previous jobs as president of the private Nijenrode University, personally awarded the software wonder an honorary doctorate in recognition of Microsoft’s contribution to IT education.

She was then heard to have told Bill that he was "doing a good job", something she repeated after yesterday's love-in with her new boss Barroso at the commission headquarters in Brussels. "You don't give an honorary degree if you are not thinking that he is doing a good job", Neelie told journalists.

Needless to say, our Neelie doesn't think that this will affect her attitude towards the EU's case against Microsoft and, in any case, as she tartly reminded journalists, "I am not a commissioner yet".

In the unlikely event that she doesn't make it through the EU parliamentary hearing, I suppose she can always get a job with Microsoft.

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