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article imageMicrosoft faces new antitrust clash with Vista

By Carolyn E. Price     Jan 28, 2007 in Technology
Microsoft versus the European Union --- Part II?
Officials have reported that Microsoft is risking a new showdown with EU regulators when they roll-out its Vista operating system nearly three years after a landmark antitrust ruling against the US software giant.
After numerous delays, Microsoft's next-generation Windows Vista operating system is to make its debut with home computer users on January 30, 2007. It was shipped to business clients in November, 2006. While Microsoft prepares to roll out its first new operating system in five years, its rivals are preparing to do battle again with the IT giant after they scored one victory in March 2004 with an EU antitrust ruling against the company.
"With Vista, Microsoft has clearly chosen to ignore the fundamental principles of the commission's March 2004 decision," said Simon Awde, the chairman of the ECIS trade association that opposes Microsoft in its antitrust troubles.
ECIS, which includes tech giants as Oracle, IBM and Nokia, filed a complaint with EU regulators in February 2006 identifying Vista and Office. They have updated their action with further details on Vista last month.
"We are in the process of examining this complaint," said European Commission spokesman for competition issues Jonathan Todd.
Microsoft has a long history of disagreements with the European Commission over the immense market power its existing Windows operating system has. It was fined a record $497 million euros ($642 million dollars) in the March 2004 antitrust ruling.
In addition to the fine, the EU ordered Microsoft to sell a version of its Windows operating system without Media Player software and to disclose the software protocols that are the foundation of Windows. Last April, Microsoft challenged the 2004 ruling in the EU's second-highest court and the judges are expected to hand down a decision sometime in the first half of this year.
Frustrated with Microsoft's defiance of some of its demands, in July the commission imposed daily fines. The fines have added up to 280.5 million euros so far. Microsoft is also appealing against these charges.
Meanwhile, the threat of further fines remains as the commission has not decided whether Microsoft has met its demands. The company's rivals say that Vista is designed in a way that makes it difficult for them to build software that is interoperable with it, thereby once again hampering competition.
"Vista is the first step in Microsoft's strategy to extend its market dominance to the Internet," ECIS' Awde said.
ECIS claims that the computer language that Microsoft has written to replace the current standard for publishing pages on the Internet, HTML, was designed to be dependent upon Windows, making operations with other platforms extremely difficult. The association says that Microsoft is also to release a document file format that only operates seamlessly on Microsoft's Office platform.
The European Commission is unlikely to open a new antitrust front against Microsoft over Vista before the EU court gives its decision on the regulators' 2004 ruling.
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