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EU Prepares To Conclude Antitrust Case Against Microsoft

by Ulrika Lomas, for LawAndTax-News.com, Brussels

07 August 2003


The European Commission announced on Wednesday that it is giving Microsoft one more chance to comment before it concludes its antitrust probe into the software giant.

Speaking with regard to allegations that the firm has abused, and continues to abuse its dominant position from the PC into low end servers, and that the tying of Windows Media Player to the Windows operating system 'weakens competition on the merits, stifles product innovation, and ultimately reduces consumer choice, the Commission announced that:

'In the field of interoperability, the Commission's evidence confirms that Microsoft is leveraging its overwhelmingly dominant position from the PC into low-end servers, the computers which provide core services to PCs in corporate networks. The Commission contacted a significant number of small, medium and large enterprises selected from all industrial sectors and from across the entire EEA, and requested information on whether interoperability considerations were a factor in their purchasing choices, and whether non-disclosures of such information by Microsoft influenced their purchase decisions.'

It revealed that: 'An overwhelming majority of customers responding to this market enquiry highlighted that Microsoft's non-disclosure of interface information - necessary for competing servers to properly 'talk' with Windows PCs and servers - did indeed artificially alter their choice in favour of Microsoft's server products. This behaviour is detrimental to competition on the merits.'

With regard to the tying of Windows media to its own operating system, the Commission announced that it had contacted a large number of suppliers in various segments of the market, all of which were asked to provide information on the specifics of their industries, and what factors determined their business decisions.

'The replies highlighted that the ubiquity of Windows Media Player on PCs artificially skews their development incentives in favour of Microsoft. This confirms the Commission's preliminary conclusion that Microsoft's tying of Windows Media Player to the Windows operating system weakens competition on the merits, stifles product innovation, and ultimately reduces consumer choice,' The EC explained in a statement.

Possible remedies to this situation put forward by the European Commission included obliging the firm to reveal the necessary interface information in order to allow rival vendors of low-end servers to compete with Microsoft on a level playing field, and requiring it to untie the Windows Media Player from the Windows operating system. Under the terms of the EC proposals, the company would also be obliged to offer competing media players with Windows.


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