EC receives Microsoft reply to antitrust query

The European Commission confirmed it received a reply from Microsoft Corp. Friday to its accusations that the software giant is abusing its dominant position in the European market.

“We received a lot of papers from Microsoft. Now we have to examine them,” said Amelia Torres, a Commission spokeswoman.

Microsoft is accused of abusing its dominant position in the market for PC operating systems by giving only partial information about its software to companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc., which make the powerful servers that connect PCs together in a network.

A complaint by Sun in 1998 sparked an investigation that led the Commission to take legal action in August 2000. Other companies have also submitted comments to the EU regulator as part of a separate investigation into the software company launched in February 2000.

While the first case looks at the abuse of Microsoft’s operating systems Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0 and all their upgrades, the second one focuses on the company’s recently released operating system Windows 2000.

Microsoft can ask the Commission to hear its case at an oral hearing, which usually takes place about one month after the written reply has been received.

There is no deadline for a final decision by the Commission. Fines of up to 10 per cent of its global sales may accompany a negative ruling for the company.

The subject matter of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) legal action against Microsoft is different from the Commission’s allegations. The allegations being examined by the Commission are that Microsoft extended its dominance in the PC operating systems market to the server operating systems market. But the thrust of the DOJ’s actions revolves around Microsoft’s protection of its dominance in PC operating systems through measures aimed at weakening Netscape Communication Corp.’s Navigator Internet browser and Sun’s Java programming language. A U.S. court found that Microsoft used its monopoly power illegally. Microsoft plans to appeal that decision.

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