Microsoft: EU fight could last until 2009
'I anticipate four or five years of litigation,' says Microsoft counsel Brad Smith
IDG News Service - Microsoft Corp. will appeal the fine and sanctions imposed on it by the European Commission, a process that could keep the battle rumbling until 2009, Brad Smith, the company's senior vice president and general counsel, said in a conference call shortly after the commission's decision was announced.
This morning, the commission fined Microsoft $613 million and ordered it to offer a version of its Windows operating system without the Windows Media Player software within 90 days (see story).
"We have great respect for the commission and have worked hard with [it] to get a positive result. We explored a number of proposals, with significant concessions from Microsoft, but ... the commission decided to adopt a negative decision," Microsoft's Europe, Middle East and Africa chairman, Patrick de Smedt, said during the call.
If the EC had accepted the solution proposed by Microsoft, which called for bundling its Media Player alongside three competing media players in the Windows operating system, the company could now be getting on with business, Smith said. As it is, Microsoft will now ask the European Court of First Instance to review the decision and stay or suspend the sanctions, particularly the order to create a second version of Windows, he said.
The Court of First Instance is an independent court, attached to the Court of Justice, that deals with actions against commission institutions.
Microsoft has 70 days to seek legal review from the Court of First Instance, Smith said. "We hope to get added clarity [from it], perhaps this year, and then there may be an opportunity to talk to the EC again. I anticipate four or five years of litigation ahead."
Removing Media Player from the operating system will break some aspects of Windows' operability and will affect many Web sites that have been developed with code using the player, Smith said. These include automatic playback of video on some sites and voice narration when Windows is being set up, he said. "Even if you add RealNetworks [RealPlayer], that [voice narration] feature won't work," he added.
RealNetworks issued a statement saying that the commission is the third legal body to declare that Microsoft's media player bundling strategy is illegal and that it "welcomes the opportunity to compete on a more level playing field." RealNetworks will use this decision to pursue its case in the U.S. to stop Microsoft's "illegal" conduct and to gain compensation for the harm that has been done to its business, the company said.
"There's an important principle at stake here. Every company should be able to improve its products to
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