The European Commission (EC) has launched a formal investigation
into Microsoft's activity in the server software market, following
a preliminary inquiry earlier this year.
Acting on a complaint by Sun Microsystems, the EC is
investigating whether Microsoft breached European Union antitrust
rules by engaging in discriminatory licensing and refusing to
supply essential information on its Windows operating system to
Microsoft has two months to respond to the allegations as part
of the investigation, which could lead to legal action against the
software giant. Only after having heard the company's defence can
the EC make a final decision, which may be accompanied by
Sun alleged that Microsoft had an obligation to disclose the
source code of the server interfaces in Windows client software.
Microsoft's competitors need to know technical details about the
interfaces to develop server operating systems that can talk to the
dominant Windows software for PCs.
The release of Windows 2000 in February was, according to Sun,
the final step in Microsoft's strategy to drive all serious
competition out of the server software market.
The Commission said it believed that Microsoft gave information
"only on a partial and discriminatory basis" to some of its
European Commissioner Mario Monti said: "Effective protection of
copyrights and patents is most important for technological
progress. However, we will not tolerate the extension of existing
dominance into adjacent markets through the leveraging of market
power by anti-competitive means and under the pretext of copyright
In a statement, the EC made it clear that the US antitrust case
against Microsoft and the allegations that the Commission are
investigating are quite different.
The allegations examined by the Commission are that Microsoft
extended its dominance in the PC operating system market to the
server operating systems market. US Department of Justice case
proceedings revolved around Microsoft using its dominance of the PC
operating system market to weaken the position of Netscape's
Navigator browser and Sun's Java.
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