The European Union's antitrust authority confirmed yesterday that it's analyzing a fresh set of "informal complaints" against Microsoft over its business practices.
These complaints by industry rivals are separate to those which led the European Commission to impose a record fine on Microsoft and order it to unbundle Media Player from Windows and ensure interoperability with its workgroup server software, according to a spokesman.
"The European Commission has received a number of informal complaints about Microsoft," said Jonathan Todd, a spokesman for the European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes, in a prepared statement. The Commission was in the process of analyzing the complaints, he continued, and would not take a decision whether to open a new case against the company before this analysis was complete.
No easy ride for Redmond
The Commission's statement comes in response to an interview with Kroes in the New York Times, in which the Commissioner suggested that she would take action against the company over these complaints. She said in the interview: "We're not going to wait and do nothing."
The article suggested that the complaints could involve the bundling of products into Microsoft's Office software suite. But Todd declined to confirm any details of the complaints, commenting only that they were not "new".
Kroes' comments about not waiting referred to the 2004 antitrust ruling by the Commission against the company, where it ordered Microsoft to offer a version of its Windows PC operating system without Media Player and publish its communications protocols for workgroup servers, Todd said.
Commissioners ‘determined’ to act
The Commission insists that the licensing terms for these protocols should include open-source software licences. Microsoft is contesting this, arguing that such licences would damage its intellectual property rights.
The Commission is "determined to ensure that its decision is fully implemented" by Microsoft, he said.
The Commission has asked Microsoft's rivals and other industry players for their assessment of whether the company's offer on licensing terms is reasonable in a process called "market testing," Todd said.
"We are still analyzing the results of the market testing," he said.
Although the Commission may decide to ask Microsoft to revise its offer, it has already agreed to ask the Court of First Instance, the court which is hearing the company's appeal against the ruling, to decide whether the licensing terms should include open-source licences. That appeal is expected to take several years.
Microsoft lodged a second appeal against the Commission in August to ensure that the court addressed the question of licensing terms for interoperability in the workgroup server market.