Five major technology firms have won approval to speak against Microsoft in its appeal against the European Commission's antitrust case.

The court hearing the appeal announced Friday that the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) was accepted as an intervenor in the case, according to a Microsoft representative.

IBM, Oracle, Nokia, RealNetworks and Red Hat have applied to participate under the umbrella group to support the Commission's efforts to keep Microsoft from abusing its dominance in the PC operating systems market to gain an unfair advantage in the related workgroup software and media player markets.

European sun to fall on Microsoft?

Intervenors in the case before the Court of First Instance (CFI), in Luxembourg, have the opportunity to access the court's case files and provide written observations on the deliberations. The CFI announced the list of official intervenors for both sides last March, but the word was still out on ECIS since it had filed its application late.

The acceptance of ECIS makes no difference from Microsoft's point of view, according to company spokesman Dirk Delmartino. The ECIS members were already participating through other intervening groups, he said.

IBM, Oracle, Nokia, RealNetworks, and Red Hat also participate in the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), which was already accepted as an official intervenor on the EC's side. Real Networks has intervenor status on its own, having helped kick off the antitrust case by arguing that Microsoft was squeezing it out of the media player market by bundling its Windows Media Player with the Windows operating system.

Backing strong authority

The five vendors were prompted to file for intervenor status under ECIS after they saw Microsoft settling with long-time detractors, such as Sun Microsystems and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), representatives for the group have said. The group hoped to lend weight to the Commission's case, fearing that the settlements would be seen as waning industry support.