European body expands probe of Microsoft

CIOL Bureau
New Update

BRUSSELS: The European Commission said on Thursday it has expanded its

investigation of Microsoft Corp to look into whether the US software giant is

illegally tying its Media Player to its Windows operating system.


"This statement of objections supplements one sent to the company a year

ago and adds a new dimension to the Commission's concerns that Microsoft's

actions may harm innovation and restrict choice for consumers," the

European Union's competition watchdog said in a statement. Microsoft's Media

Player is software that permits the use of audio and video files without lengthy

download times on a personal computer.

The Commission said Microsoft might also be trying to extend its dominant

position in personal computer operating systems into inexpensive computer

servers usually used for printing, accessing the Internet, and storing files.

The Commission said Microsoft may have "withheld from vendors of

alternative server software, key inter-operability information that they need to

enable their product to talk with Microsoft's dominant PC and server software


"Server networks lie at the heart of the future of the web and every

effort must be made to prevent their monopolization through illegal practices.

The Commission also wants to see undistorted competition in the market for media

players," EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said.


Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said Microsoft had two months to respond

to the charges and the company could also request a hearing, which she expected

to take place before the end of the year. She said the Commission was not

considering imposing any restrictions on Microsoft while its investigation was

under way. The Commission was not investigating Microsoft's new Windows XP

operating system as part of the probe, Torres said.

The European Commission announced in August 2000 it was investigating whether

Microsoft had used its dominance in personal computer operating systems to

damage its competitors in the server market - the computers that make network

computing possible. Microsoft has fought a long legal battle against antitrust

allegations in the United States.

In June, a US appeals court agreed with a lower court that Microsoft holds a

monopoly in personal computer operating systems with its Windows software and

that some of its business practices amounted to illegal preservation of that

monopoly. But the appeals judges cleared the company of trying to monopolize the

market for Internet browsers and said splitting the company in two was an

inappropriate remedy.

(C) Reuters Limited 2001.