EU says its pursuit of Microsoft continues

The European Commission declined comment Thursday on the latest twist in the U.S. government case against Microsoft Corp., although an official with the competition office of the EuropeanUnion executive body said the new case there is "factually and legally different" from the one being conducted in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and state attorneys general informed Microsoft Thursday that they will not seek a break up of the company and will not pursue the issue of whether the software maker illegally tied its Internet Explorer browser to the Windows operating system. Last week, the European Commission combined two separate antitrust investigations into Microsoft, and added new accusations that by bundling its Media Player music and video streaming software with Windows, the company is abusing its dominant position.

The new strand in the E.U. case bear a resemblance to the claim in the U.S., now dropped, that Microsoft bundled IE with Windows. There was no cooperation between the two authorities on that matter, said the official, who asked not to be named. "In merger rulings there is closer cooperation, but with antitrust there are limits to the amount of cooperation, such as exchanging information," the official said.

Exchanging sensitive corporate information between regulators requires the permission of the companies involved and John Frank, Microsoft senior corporate attorney in Europe said the company has not been asked for such permission.

In 1994, the European Commission and the DOJ jointly forced Microsoft to abandon its licensing agreements with PC makers, which forced them to pay a royalty on every PC whether or not it had Microsoft software pre-installed. At the time the Commission hailed the joint ruling as a model of how to tackle giant companies and Microsoft said that cooperation was "helpful."

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Paul Meller

Computerworld
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