Microsoft Replies to EU Antitrust Concerns

BRUSSELS (04/18/2000) - Microsoft Corp. has now fully replied to the European Commission's questions concerning allegations that new elements in Windows 2000 are designed to help the company expand its dominant position, a Commission spokeswoman said today.

The Commission will now examine the information to determine whether there is cause to open a formal case against the company, said Amelia Torres, a Commission spokeswoman.

"It is virtually impossible to say when the Commission will take that decision," she added in response to questions during the daily press briefing at the Commission.

The Commission launched a preliminary inquiry into the allegations in early February and had given the company until March 15 to reply. At that time, Microsoft provided an initial response accompanied with a request for additional time to provide in-depth technical answers. The delay was granted.

The Commission is concerned that Microsoft has bundled its operating system together with other software so that only Microsoft products are fully interoperable with each other, that it is gaining dominance in the server operating system market, and that it will leverage this dominance to control electronic commerce, European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said when the inquiry was launched in February.

In response, Microsoft has said publicly that the company focuses on giving users interoperability with software from other vendors, and that it believes that the Commission will ultimately conclude that Microsoft's work conforms fully with the European Union competition law.

Meanwhile, the Commission has given the company until May 2 to answer questions concerning another possible violation of European Union rules involving Micro Leader Business, a French software wholesaler that alleges that Microsoft violated antitrust rules when it banned Micro Leader from reselling in France copyrighted Microsoft software imported from Canada.

Although the initial deadline was April 16, the Commission readily grants two week extensions in such cases, Torres explained.

The Commission is also pursuing its in-depth investigation of Microsoft's planned acquisition of Telewest PLC, the U.K. cable company. This case was prompted by concerns that Microsoft could use its dominant position in operating systems as leverage to gain market share in the television desktop box sector, Michael Tscherny, another European Commission spokesman, explained earlier this month. The risk is taken seriously due to indications that many Europeans will eventually access the Internet over TV cable and not by computer.

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