EU's Antitrust Warning Could Slow Microsoft's Entry Into New Markets

The European Commission says the vendor's abuses are ongoing, and it has the authority to impose fines and behavioral restrictions on the company.
Microsoft's antitrust troubles in the United States may be largely over, but a warning from the European Union that a four-year antitrust probe of the company is near a close means Microsoft's ability to enter new markets may be fettered.

The European Commission, the EU's antitrust unit, on Aug. 6 gave Microsoft a "final opportunity to comment" before concluding an antitrust investigation of the company that began in 2000 and centers on allegations that Microsoft withheld technical information about its Windows operating system to enhance its market position in server software, and that the company gained an unfair advantage over competitors in software for playing digital music and videos by bundling it with Windows. The European Commission has the authority to impose fines and behavioral restrictions on the company.

"Microsoft's abuses are still ongoing," the commission said in the statement issued in Brussels, Belgium. "Microsoft is leveraging its overwhelmingly dominant position from the PC into low-end servers." Microsoft's nondisclosure of technical information about communications between Windows PCs and servers "artificially alter[ed]" customers' choices, the commission said.

The commission also proposed forcing Microsoft to unbundle its Media Player software from Windows by offering a version of Windows without the software, or by including competing products in the operating-system package.

In February, Microsoft opponents--including Sun Microsystems, AOL Time Warner, Nokia, and Oracle--filed a complaint with the commission about Microsoft's tactics, including bundling, in new markets including Internet portals, handheld computers, and instant messaging.

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