EU draft decision rules against Microsoft

15 Mar 2004

Microsoft will be forced to rethink the way it sells multimedia technology as part of its Windows bundle as a result of a draft decision that is expected to be endorsed by an advisory committee from the 15 member States next week.

The European Commission draft requires Microsoft to share proprietary information with rival server makers and to provide computer manufacturers with a second version of Windows stripped of built-in audiovisual software.

Microsoft also faces the prospect of a fine expected to run into hundreds of millions of euros as part of the EU’s sanctions against the company.

The EU advisory committee is due to meet again on 22 March to decide whether to endorse the proposed fine, with the Commission’s final ruling coming two days later on 24 March.

It is understood that the draft decision gives Microsoft a specific deadline to get its house in order or face additional actions. As it is certain Microsoft is likely to appeal any decision it finds unsatisfactory, the Commission has also fine-tuned its draft ruling to stand up to scrutiny by EU courts in Luxembourg.

The EU anti-trust action was sparked by industry concerns that Microsoft was monopolising its position by bundling its own MediaPlayer technology with its Windows operating system, pre-installed on most PCs by numerous manufacturers. The aim of the action is to free computer makers to sell Windows bundled with rival multimedia software such as RealPlayer or QuickTime.

Microsoft claims that Windows MediaPlayer is built-in and removing it would damage the Windows Operating System.

By John Kennedy