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Update: EU launches two new antitrust probes against Microsoft

Opera's complaint against IE leads to one; second involves Office and Open XML

January 14, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The European Union's antitrust agency announced today that it has opened two new investigations into illegal business practices by Microsoft Corp., one of which was at least partly the result of a complaint filed in 2007 by Norwegian browser maker Opera Software ASA.

Office is the primary focus of the second investigation, according to Jonathan Todd, the spokesman for the EU's competition commission.

"The European Commission has decided to initiate two formal antitrust investigations against Microsoft Corp., one concerning the tying in of software products with its software [operating] system, and the other being the availability of interoperability information," Todd said in Brussels today.

Microsoft said it would work with the EU to resolve the complaint. "We will cooperate fully with the Commission's investigation and provide any and all information necessary," said Jack Evans, a company spokesman, in an e-mail this morning. "We are committed to ensuring that Microsoft is in full compliance with European law and our obligations as established by the European Court of First Instance in its September 2007 ruling."

That ruling, which unanimously rejected Microsoft's appeal, led the company to concede a number of still-outstanding points a month later.

Both investigations have roots in that earlier case, in which the EU accused Microsoft of tying its Windows Media Player software to the Windows operating system with the intention of driving rivals out of the market. The commission also charged that Microsoft was subverting competition by not sharing the technical information necessary for other companies to create products that would better interoperate with Windows servers.

On the tying investigation, Todd gave a nod to Opera, which formally complained to the commission in December, demanding that it force Microsoft to separate Internet Explorer from Windows and require IE to abide by what it called "open Web standards."

"The investigation involving tying ... is partly based on the complaint by Opera and concerns the tying in of Internet Explorer, but we've also had complaints of the tying of other software," said Todd. In a statement issued by the commission, it also called out desktop search and Windows Live -- the latter being the umbrella brand name for Microsoft online services, such as its Web-based e-mail and online storage -- as examples of other tying by Microsoft. "We'll be looking into whether this tying constitutes an abuse of Microsoft's dominance in the operating system market," Todd said.

Opera's reaction to the news was muted. "We are pleased to see the commission's swift response to our filing," said Thomas Ford, Opera's spokesman. "We feel this is an important step to protect the Web's future as an open and interoperable platform."

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