Bonum Certa Men Certa

How Steve Ballmer Was Schmoozing Neelie Kroes

Dinner table



IN its top-secret presentations, Microsoft explains what "schmoozing" is. It's a subversive and disingenuous strategy for causing harm to one's rival. Here is a transcription of the Neelie Kroes press conference where she admitted Ballmer having schmoozed her in her hometown. It came up in a Q&A session whose transcript is the only source on the Net, the wire services (& tech publications that quoted them) which had paraphrased the fact.



Neelie Kroes: When the court ruling was published, we got in touch, and Mr. Ballmer and I found each other in a small restaurant, so to say, there it all started, nobody could find out where, or whatever, and there we were indeed promising each other that there should be a compliance of what has to be done much earlier.

18:13 (Antonio)

Q: I hope Microsoft paid the bill in the restaurant (laughter), but my question is on the fine. You may not have decided yet on the amount you may impose, if any, to Microsoft but please try to help us just avoid any present misinterpretation,miscalculation. What is, as of yesterday, the highest level of amount you can impose on Microsoft?

Neelie Kroes: I will be back with the news when we have taken that decision. Absolutely. I mentioned already today that anyhow -- and that is a certainty, and there are not that many certainties in life, as you aware --that from today on, there is no reason to impose further penalties on Microsoft as of this Monday, the 22nd.


In 2006, Ballmer and Commissioner Kroes had been negotiating for some time and she had clearly thought there would be progress, until the day Ballmer suddenly published her e-mail correspondence on the Microsoft PressPass site without her consent, claiming "transparency". She hit the ceiling and it was downhill for Microsoft from there.

“She hit the ceiling and it was downhill for Microsoft from there.”Ballmer had already annoyed her by making an unannounced visit and press conference around the corner from her office in Brussels in January (see coverage here and also here). He also held a secret meeting that day with Commissioner Viviane Reding, noted on her Web site agenda and picked up by one of the wire services, but no one connected those dots. That meeting was completely missed by the press, but Bloomberg may have had some coverage at the time.

The secret restaurant date with Commissioner Kroes in October 2007 was really damage control -- she agreed to end the daily fines, but withheld what the actual daily fine amount would be. This was later announced in February 2008, the very day Microsoft was in Geneva helping to ram through OOXML [1, 2]. She was crystal clear that at least two other investigations of Microsoft were underway, a fact overlooked by the totality of the mainstream and tech press who generally reported the latest browser tying statement of objections as a "new" investigation.

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