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EU to probe Microsoft on antitrust allegations

The European Commission announced it has decided to launch two new antitrust investigations against Microsoft, months after the software giant conceded defeat in another procedure.

The commission, the antitrust watchdog of the European Union (EU), said the investigations concern two separate categories of alleged infringements of EU competition rules on abuse of a dominant market position; one is in the field of inter-operability and the other relates to the tying together of separate software products.

In a complaint by the European Committee for Inter-operable Systems (ECIS),which represents IBM, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, RealNetworks and Oracle, Microsoft is alleged to have illegally refused to disclose inter-operability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so called .NET Framework.  

The commission said its investigation will focus on all these areas, including the question of whether Microsoft's new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently inter-operable with competitors' products. 

The second complaint was raised by Opera, a competing browser vendor. It alleged Microsoft has engaged in illegal tying of its Internet Explorer product to its dominant Windows operating system, which harms the competition.  

Allegations of tying of other separate software products by Microsoft, including desktop search and Windows Live, will also be under review.  

The commission said the initiation of proceedings does not imply that the commission has proof of an infringement, but signifies that the commission will further investigate the case as a matter of priority.

Microsoft said it would cooperate fully with the commission and supply any and all information necessary. “We are committed to ensuring that Microsoft is in full compliance with European law and our obligations as established by the European Court of First Instance in its September 2007 ruling.” the company said in a statement.

The new investigations came less than three months after Microsoft gave up its legal challenge to a landmark decision adopted by the European Commission in 2004, in which Microsoft was ordered to supply competitors in the work group server software market with interface information necessary for their products to inter-operate with the company's Windows PC operating system and untie Windows from its own Media Player product.

The commission also fined Microsoft a record €497 million for the company's abuses of market power. Though Microsoft contested the decision before the European Court of First Instance, the case ended last September with a heavy blow to the software giant. (Xinhua)