Microsoft to defend itself against EU antitrust case

12 Nov 2003

Microsoft will today defend itself against the antitrust case taken by the European Commission, arguing that it focuses unfairly on the company and not on its intellectual property rights and what consumers want.

In a hearing at the Commission later today, the company will seek to appeal beyond the staff of the competition commissioner Mario Monti to other parts of the European Commission and national regulatory agencies in the hope that they might rein back the Commission.

Monti’s staff are understood to be following up a separate complaint into Microsoft, which accuses the software giant of unfairly bundling other programs within its XP operating system, such as the company’s MediaPlayer product.

At a hearing that will last until Friday, several companies including Sun Microsystems, Novell and RealNetworks will back the Commission, which wants Microsoft to share information with rivals to allow greater interoperability between desktop computers and the server programs that knit them together. The companies are also calling for Microsoft to unbundle MediaPlayer from the rest of Windows.

Microsoft is defending itself on the premise that the Commission’s case is the consequence of an artificially small market definition of software for low-end servers that co-ordinate desktop computers, since the same software also works for bigger servers.

The company will seek to demonstrate that interoperability between PCs and other server programs is sufficient enough already and that more information would allow competitors of Microsoft to clone its products.

However, the Computer & Communications Industry Association which is appearing against Microsoft is due to argue that the existing interoperability problems within enterprises are a consequence of the anticompetitive design of Microsoft’s programs.

Advocates of Microsoft’s bundling of MediaPlayer argue that the technology is what consumers want and expect and that the technology is just as important an element of modern operating systems as web browsers and printer drivers.

The Commission is expected to reach a decision by March next year.

By John Kennedy