Europe attack on Microsoft could hit UK users

The European Commission’s threat to fine Microsoft up to £2bn for anti-competitive behaviour could hit users and weaken the...

The European Commission’s threat to fine Microsoft up to £2bn for anti-competitive behaviour could hit users and weaken the company's drive to increase security, according to industry leaders.

Roger Ellis, the treasurer of the IT directors' organisation Elite and head of the IT Directors' Network, said businesses would be the ultimate losers if the commission punishes Microsoft.

“Inevitably, Microsoft will take money out of their research and development budget, which will be to the detriment of users,” he said.

Ellis also claimed that if Microsoft is forced to open up more of its code it could, ultimately, make it more vulnerable and affect security.

Jonathan Mitchell, chairman of the Corporate IT Forum Tif, said the commission case was not now a high priority for Tif members, but he called for more discussion between the company and user organisations.

“There is still dissatisfaction with the co-operation between Microsoft and end users. We’d like to see more high-level dialogue to help add value to the end users and more effort put into improving the quality of their software,” Mitchell said.

Philip Virgo, strategic advisor to the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS), said the commission must not dwell on the past.

“The important thing here is what impact it has on Microsoft’s future policy, not Media Player and old stuff like Windows 2000,” he said. “It’s also good to see Europe getting its act together instead of following in the footsteps of the US courts,” he added. 

Microsoft said it took the investigation very seriously and it plans to examine the last week's Statement of Objections from the commission and assess its concerns.

Butler Group analyst Tim Jennings believed the case was unlikely to lead to a greater choice for users. “I don’t think anyone expects this will have a significant impact on Microsoft’s position or harm its monopoly on the desktop,” he said.

Business Systems Group consultant Simon Ratcliffe said the user community put Microsoft where they are today through buying its products out of choice. “I don’t recall seeing Bill Gates with a machine gun,” he said.

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