European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, fresh off her antitrust victory over Microsoft in the European Court of First Instance, has launched two new investigations into anticompetitive behavior by Microsoft:
In December 2005 when MTV and Microsoft announced the URGE music service with great fanfare, it was slated to be a major feature of Windows Media Player 11. Before it got launched however, Microsoft introduced the Zune and the Zune Marketplace and somehow the MTV marketing blitz never materialized. Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that MTV is switching horses and merging URGE into a joint venture with RealNetworks (who has its own incompatible Rhapsody service) and with Verizon Wireless handling the mobile distribution.
A coalition of rivals charged on Friday that Microsoft Corp.’s new Vista operating system coming out next week will perpetuate practices found illegal in the European Union nearly three years ago.
The group, which includes IBM, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, Adobe, Oracle and Red Hat, said its complaints made last year are yet to be addressed just days before Vista is due for release.
“Microsoft has clearly chosen to ignore the fundamental principles of the Commission’s March 2004 decision,” said Simon Awde, chairman of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS).
Microsoft said it had no comment. The Commission was not ready to act.
“We are in the process of examining this complaint,” a Commission spokesman said. ECIS disclosed on Friday that the latest additions to its complaint were made only last month, after it studied Vista.
Other complainants in the group include Corel, RealNetworks , Linspire and Opera.
The ECIS press release is here and technologies specifically called out are XAML and Open XML. The European Commission always seems to move at a snail’s place, but they do move eventually so their reaction to Vista continues to be something to watch.
As part of the prep for the Zune launch on Nov 14 that I mentioned yesterday, Microsoft has put the going out of business sign up on MSN Music. Here’s the story from Ina Fried at CNET:
Two years after opening its MSN Music store to compete with Apple Computer’s iTunes, Microsoft plans to stop selling downloads from the site, CNET News.com has learned.
Beginning, Nov. 14, MSN’s music site will begin redirecting music purchasers to either the Zune Marketplace Web site or to RealNetworks’ Rhapsody site.
“After November 14, the ‘Buy’ buttons that you’re used to seeing on MSN Music album and artist pages will change to links that connect you to Zune and to Real Rhapsody,” MSN Entertainment general manager Rob Bennett said in an e-mail to MSN Music customers.
When it opened its online doors in September 2004, MSN Music had high hopes of competing with Apple, touting the fact that songs bought from the site could be played on a variety of Windows Media-compatible devices.
However, MSN Music, as well as other stores that sell tracks in the Windows Media Audio format, have been unable to compete with iTunes, which has maintained its dominance.
The Rhapsody part is due to the legal settlement with RealNetworks, but the Zune Marketplace referral is a bit of a puzzle since the Zune format is incompatible with the PlaysForSure format which is available on MSN Music. The consensus reading of the MSN Music FAQ about the change seems to be that PlaysForSure customers are just plain out of luck unless they go to Rhapsody or one of the other PlaysForSure Music stores. The PlaysForSure hardware vendors that Microsoft recruited for the last round and now have stranded are going to love this.
Update: The above got updated several times based on varying parsings of the MSN Music FAQ.