Microsoft expects EU to merge its two antitrust cases

There is “a good possibility” that the European Commission will merge its two antitrust investigations into Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems, said John Frank, the company’s senior corporate attorney Tuesday.

The first case was sparked by a complaint by Sun Microsystems Inc. in 1998 which alleged that Microsoft was using its Windows operating system software to muscle rivals out of the market for server software.

Early last year the Commission launched a separate investigation on its own initiative to see if Microsoft was doing the same thing with the then latest version of its OS software Windows 2000.

Last summer the Commission opened legal proceedings against Microsoft in the first case, and the company requested a hearing that has yet to be scheduled. The Commission is expected to take a similar step in the second case in the coming months.

Sources close to the Commission expect the two cases to be merged. “They are more or less identical in substance,” the source said.

Frank said that if the cases were to be merged the Commission would either revise the existing statement of objections to include its concerns about Windows 2000, or it would issue a second statement of objections and then consolidate the two.

Microsoft would then have 60 days in which to submit a written response to the new objections, and then a hearing covering all objections could be organized, Frank said.

Commission spokesman on competition issues Michael Tscherny said merging the cases “remains a possibility”, but he added that there won’t be any developments until after the August recess.

The Commission can be reached at http://europa.eu.int/.