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January 14, 2008

Neelie Kroes: She’s Back!

Posted by David Hunter at 2:56 PM ET.

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:

The European Commission has decided to initiate two formal antitrust investigations against Microsoft Corp concerning two separate categories of alleged infringements of EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant market position (Article 82). The first case where proceedings have been opened is in the field of interoperability in relation to a complaint by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS). The second area where proceedings have been opened is in the field of tying of separate software products following inter alia a complaint by Opera.

As regards interoperability, in its Microsoft judgment of 17 September 2007, the Court of First Instance confirmed the principles that must be respected by dominant companies as regards interoperability disclosures. In the complaint by ECIS, Microsoft is alleged to have illegally refused to disclose interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so called .NET Framework. The Commission’s examination will therefore focus on all these areas, including the question whether Microsoft’s new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors’ products.

As for the tying of separate software products, in its Microsoft judgment of 17 September 2007, the Court of First Instance confirmed the principles that must be respected by dominant companies. In a complaint by Opera, a competing browser vendor, Microsoft is alleged to have engaged in illegal tying of its Internet Explorer product to its dominant Windows operating system. The complaint alleges that there is ongoing competitive harm from Microsoft’s practices, in particular in view of new proprietary technologies that Microsoft has allegedly introduced in its browser that would reduce compatibility with open internet standards, and therefore hinder competition. In addition, allegations of tying of other separate software products by Microsoft, including desktop search and Windows Live have been brought to the Commission’s attention. The Commission’s investigation will therefore focus on allegations that a range of products have been unlawfully tied to sales of Microsoft’s dominant operating system.

This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of an infringement. It only signifies that the Commission will further investigate the case as a matter of priority.

Ouch – it’s a Pandora’s box of interoperability disclosures plus product tying and they even took up Opera’s complaint about Internet Explorer not being compatible with open Internet standards. Not unexpectedly, Microsoft says they will cooperate with the investigation.

One final note, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) is backed by Adobe Systems, Corel, IBM, Linspire, Nokia, Opera, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems among others.

Filed under .NET FX 3.5, Adobe, Antitrust, Corel, General Business, Governmental Relations, IBM, Internet Explorer, Legal, Linspire, MSN, Microsoft, OOXML, Opera, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat, Standards, Sun, Technologies, Windows Live, Windows Search

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5 Responses to “Neelie Kroes: She’s Back!”

  1. EU investigates Microsoft’s failed OOXML blitz | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] We mentioned some of the hanky panky at the time, but never imagined that it might be considered fodder for the antitrust watchdogs. However, it dovetails neatly with the latest EU Microsoft investigations (which include OOXML) and nothing is beyond the purview of a modern bureaucrat.   Filed under Legal, Standards, Governmental Relations, General Business, Antitrust, OOXML, Microsoft   [Permalink] [TrackBack] [...]

  2. EU finishes toting up Microsoft’s antitrust tab | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] The penalty was expected – only the amount was unknown – and there is no suggestion that Microsoft will do more than grimace and pay up in line with their new openness stance. Of course, this is merely the tab for Microsoft’s 2004 brush with the EU and doesn’t cover any charges the EU thinks they may have run up since.   Filed under Legal, Governmental Relations, General Business, Antitrust, Microsoft   [Permalink] [TrackBack] [...]

  3. IE8 puts Internet standards first | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] With Neelie Kroes looking over their shoulders and the entreaties of Web developers ringing in their ears Microsoft is promising that the default mode for Internet Explorer 8 will follow the latest Web standards: Consistent with its efforts to promote further interoperability across the Web, Microsoft Corp. is now configuring the settings in Internet Explorer 8, the upcoming version of its browser, to render content — by default — using methods that give top priority to Web standards interoperability. [...]

  4. Neelie Kroes and the European Competition Commission go after Internet Explorer | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] December 2007 complaint about Microsoft’s inclusion of Internet Explorer with Windows (more details including browser tie-ins like desktop search and Windows Live here). Today, Microsoft announced that they had received a billet-doux from Neelie in that regard: [...]

  5. Microsoft does a tentative deal with the EU Competition Commission | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Competition Commission announced today that have reached tentative agreement with Microsoft over their concerns about Web browsers and provision of interoperability information for Microsoft server…. Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith explains it more [...]

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