Today’s the start of the week long trial before the European Court of First Instance of Microsoft’s appeal of the European Commission’s antitrust judgement against them and observers were getting their money’s worth:
The European Commission forced the world’s largest software maker to offer a product no one wanted and no one bought, Microsoft Corp. told a European Union court on Monday as it began trying to overturn a landmark antitrust ruling.
Microsoft lawyer Jean-Francois Bellis said in his opening statement that the Commission made “fundamental errors of fact and reasoning” in its decision two years ago that the company abused its dominant market position to muscle into media software.
The Commission’s order that Microsoft offer customers a version of its Windows desktop operating system without Media Player — intended to give people a free choice of media software — has been a spectacular failure, he said.
In its core market, no computer maker had shipped a PC or laptop with the media-free Windows XP N version. “Not a single one,” Bellis told the 13 judges.
“The failure to offer a product that nobody wants cannot be an abuse,” Bellis said.
Economist David Evans told the Court of First Instance that the success of Apple Corp.’s iTunes and the Macromedia Inc.’s Flash Player did not bear out EU forecasts.
More than 87 percent of computer users now play media on non-Windows software, Evans said, and PC manufacturers have doubled the number of media players pre-installed on personal computers in Europe over the last two years.
“If the Commission was correct, we should see a steep downward trend,” he said.
I don’t expect there will be updates on Court TV, but it has its own kind of excitement. Here’s the agenda:
The Court of First Instance, Europe’s second highest court, has set aside the whole of this week to hear the appeal, devoting two whole days to the two separate sides of the case plus one day to debate Microsoft’s request for a reduction in the fine.
It’s a big deal for the court. General Electric and Honeywell’s appeal of the Commission decision to block their merger in 2001 was the most recent high profile hearing and that was over in a day.
If time is on Microsoft’s side and the company succeeds in persuading 61-year old Judge Bo Vesterdorf that its behavior hasn’t harmed competition, then it will be able to continue the profitable strategy of bundling new software features into its ubiquitous Windows operating system.
And that’s the crux, because while this case is about what are now older and current versions of Microsoft operating systems, the subtext is that it could bite Microsoft in possibly even more annoying fashion on Vista.
Microsoft’s request to subpoena IBM in the software giant’s antitrust battle with European regulators was denied by a U.S. federal judge on Thursday.
Microsoft said it does not plan to appeal the judge’s decision.
“The writing is clearly on the wall for these actions, and we are not pursuing them any further,” said a Microsoft representative. “In the last few weeks, the situation has changed. We have received some clarity from the Commission and its monitoring trustee that has been very helpful. Our focus is on working constructively with them.”