Monday, January 14, 2008

EU To Probe M$ (Microsoft) Again For Anti-Competitive Measures

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- European Union regulators said Monday they were again investigating software giant Microsoft this time on suspicion of abusing its market dominance by squeezing out competing Internet browsers and software rivals dependent on Microsoft programs.

The European Commission opened two formal probes, It's the first move against the company since a court four months ago backed the EU in a long-running legal battle over Microsoft's actions in using its ubiquitous Windows operating system to elbow into new software markets.

Microsoft said it would cooperate fully with the Commission's investigation and provide any and all information necessary.

"We are committed to ensuring that Microsoft is in full compliance with European law and our obligations as established by the European Court of First Instance in its September 2007 ruling," it said in a statement.

EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said he could not put a time frame on how long it would take regulators to decide whether they would file formal charges against the company, saying this usually depended on "how complicated the issues are and the level of cooperation that we receive from the company under investigation."

Although regulators did not specifically name Microsoft's latest operating system, Vista, they will look at some of its features such as desktop search.

The EU is also wading into a row between Microsoft and open source developers backed by International Business Machines by looking into Microsoft's open format for archived documents - Office Open XML.

The first new probe - triggered by a complaint from Norway's Opera Software - will look at whether Microsoft illegally gives away its Internet Explorer browser for free with Windows. Opera had called on the EU to strip Internet Explorer out of Windows or carry alternative browsers.

The investigation will check also if "new proprietary technologies" held other browsers back by not following open Internet standards. Regulators said they had also received allegations that Microsoft had also illegally packaged desktop search and Windows Live to its operating system.

The second investigation will examine whether Microsoft withheld information from companies that wanted to make products compatible with its software - including Office word processing, spreadsheet and office management tools, some server products and Microsoft's push into the Internet under the name of the .NET framework.

Since Microsoft supplies the software to the vast majority of home and office computers, rivals complain that refusal to give them interoperability information shuts the door on a huge potential market.

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