Thursday, August 07, 2003

Antitrust News: EU Intends to Fine Microsoft

Paul Geitner, AP Business Writer reports:

The European Union intends to fine Microsoft for past antitrust abuses regardless of how the software giant changes its future business practices, an EU spokesman said Thursday.

"We are minded to impose a fine for the past and minded to impose remedies for the future, and we will adopt a final decision which does exactly that," said Tilman Lueder, a spokesman for the EU's antitrust office, the European Commission.

The EU can fine violators up to 10 percent of their worldwide sales — which would be more than $3 billion in Microsoft's case. In practice, fines have never exceeded 1 percent, which would still be an EU record but easily managed by a company with cash reserves of $49 billion.

The EU sent Microsoft a statement of objections Wednesday accusing it of trying to monopolize new markets, namely servers, which tie desktop computers together, and audiovisual players, which allow users to play music and video on their computers.

Arguing that new market surveys found the abuses continuing despite the settlement last year of the landmark antitrust case against Microsoft in the United States, the EU spelled out steps it wanted Microsoft to take to address those complaints.
I think what’s most amusing about this current round in the Microsoft antitrust saga is the degree that the Computer and Communications Industry Association has lobbied the EU to attack Microsoft. If first you can’t succeed in America, there is always Europe’s more regulatory pastures.

According to CCIA’s website, Microsoft is a big meany in:

audio/video streaming and playback software (including digital rights management software);
e-mail client software;
instant messaging software and services;
server operating system software;
authentication services;
consumer Internet portals;
web services;
handheld computing device operating systems and applications software;
smart phone operating systems and applications software;
server applications (notably, mail server and media server software).
I know, I was shocked too. What business does Microsoft have in technology, after all?

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