The European Commission is preparing a ruling in its antitrust case against Microsoft
that will find the software giant guilty of abusing its dominant position in the operating system market, according to reports this morning.
Separately, the Japan Fair Trade Commission has raided Microsoft offices in Tokyo as part of its independent investigation as to whether Microsoft violated that country’s antimonopoly law.
In the European case, the Commission will gather in Brussels on March 15 to discuss its decision, which will be made public shortly thereafter. It’s expected that Microsoft will be found to have violated European antitrust law by withholding from third parties technical information about how Windows works and by tying its media-player software into the Windows OS.
A second Commission meeting will be convened to determine sanctions against Microsoft. Reportedly, the group at one time considered forcing Microsoft to change the way it sells Windows, but is believed to have pulled back from that position.
Now, sanctions are expected to involve stiff fines and strict standards Microsoft will have to meet for interoperability with competitive software. The information surfaced this morning in The New York Times and the Associated Press.
An EU representative confirmed to internetnews.com on Tuesday that the draft decision, which was the source of today’s leaks, is currently circulating among EU commissioners.
The representative also didn’t deny reports that Microsoft may be seeking to reach a settlement in advance of a decision. In that regard, the EC is believed to have received an offer from Microsoft to settle the case by bundling competitors’ software on CD-ROMs with its computers. The offer was rejected because it was seen as an ineffectual way to distribute competitive
The EC originally brought antitrust charges against Microsoft in response to a 1998 complaint by Sun Microsystems
and other companies that compete with Microsoft.
Among the issues being considered is whether Microsoft used its dominant PC market share to strong-arm its software into the server market, and whether it may have acted illegally by incorporating its new Media Player product into its Windows OS.