Microsoft sweats on EU ruling
Microsoft is waiting on a decision from Europe’s Court of First Instance on whether the European Commission was justified in ruling that it abused its near monopoly to push out rivals.
The ruling comes two months before the November expiry of most elements of the consent decree that settled a landmark US antitrust case five years ago.
The consent decree governs the company’s ties to computer makers and how its software works in various categories to ensure it does not repeat past practices.
There are those, however, who say the penalties from the antitrust rulings were ineffective and have not changed the company’s tactics.
“This is not a revelation. They are a known quantity in their business practices and ethics and their approach to industry,” says Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com. “If it could, Microsoft would like to stop innovation.”
Microsoft argues it has met the requirements of its settlement with the US government, an assessment supported by the US Department of Justice, and new competitors have emerged as a result.
“While there are some companies who will use the press and government processes to advance their interests and invoke their view of competition law, I think we are working quite well with most firms,” says Dave Heiner, Microsoft deputy general counsel who leads the company’s compliance efforts.
Heiner highlights the growing ties between his company and old adversaries such as Novell and Sun Microsystems, which is planning to more fully embrace Windows to run on its own computers.
In June, Microsoft agreed to make it easier for users to select other desktop search programs when using Vista. Google was not satisfied and asked for the consent decree to be extended indefinitely. It argues that Microsoft’s desktop search cripples competing products offered by Google, X1, Copernic, Yahoo and Ask from searching inside Vista computers. A decision is still pending.