Gartner sceptical over Microsoft antitrust probe

14 Aug 2003

Antitrust investigations into Microsoft’s software bundling practices by the European Commission will have little effect on the market: that’s the verdict of the industry analyst firm Gartner. In addition, any concessions the software giant makes will probably be minor, Gartner added.

Last week the Commission announced that its probe into Microsoft is almost complete and is set to find that the US company abused its dominant position in the market. As part of the process, Microsoft has been given an opportunity to comment before the investigation is finally concluded.

However Gartner has implied that whatever action the Commission takes will lack teeth. “The Commission has not attempted to widen its investigation into Microsoft but concentrated on strengthening its standing charges,” said David Smith of Gartner Research. He said that the Commission “seems to accept that settlement of U.S. antitrust actions have left it little room for firm action”.

Any concessions won from Microsoft “will likely be minor and confined to the minutiae of publishing some interface and protocol details” according to Smith. “The Commission will want to wrest enough concessions so that it can claim a victory for its battered competition department,” he said. “At most, it could fine Microsoft US$3.2bn, but that would be small change from Microsoft’s $50bn in cash.”

Smith concluded that by the end of the year, the Commission and Microsoft are likely to have reached a settlement. “Like the cases in the United States, the settlement will likely not have a major impact on market dynamics in Europe. But Microsoft will have to work even harder to regain European enterprises’ trust, eroded by the introduction of Licensing 6.0.”

By Gordon Smith