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European Commission Files Antitrust Action Against Microsoft

The European Commission filed a new antitrust complaint against Microsoft Corp. on Thursday at the end of a year-long investigation into Windows 2000 client-server integration.

The Commission added concerns about the integration of the Windows Media Player into its antitrust action.

Unlike the consumer-oriented antitrust case brought against Microsoft by the U.S. Department of Justice, the core of the European Commission action deals with Microsoft's business-oriented server software.

According to a statement out of the European Commission Thursday, the Commission "believes that the U.S. software company may have violated European antitrust rules by using illegal practices to extend its dominant position in the market for personal computer operating systems into the market for low-end server operating systems."

The Commission defines low-end servers as "cheaper" servers such as file-and-print and Web servers.

"Server networks lie at the heart of the future of the Web and every effort must be made to prevent their monopolisation through illegal practices," the European Commission's Competition Commissioner, Mario Monti, said in the statement.

The complaint, known as a Statement of Objections, supplements and replaces another Statement of Objections filed by the European Commission in August 2000. The new Statement of Objections follows a year-long investigation into Windows 2000.

The Commission contends Microsoft withheld "key interoperability information" from vendors of alternative server software. The Statement of Objections also holds that Microsoft's licensing practices punish customers who choose not to use Microsoft software on both servers and clients.

Microsoft has about two months to respond. On Thursday, the company issued a statement putting a positive face on the Commission's action.

"Microsoft is gratified that, compared to the statement of objections issued last August, the Commission appears to have narrowed the types of technical information that it believes that Microsoft should disclose to competitors," according to the statement.

Microsoft also claimed that the Commission staff confirmed to the company Thursday that it had no plans to seek to block the launch of Windows XP or any other products in Europe. Windows XP is set to launch Oct. 25.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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