Europe finds Microsoft guilty in antitrust case

The European Commission's draft ruling on the Microsoft antitrust case has found the company guilty of abusing the monopoly power...

The European Commission's draft ruling on the Microsoft antitrust case has found the company guilty of abusing the monopoly power of its Windows operating system.

The draft ruling said that the failure to grant rivals access to Windows computer code, which runs on more than 95% of the world's PCs, is an abuse of Microsoft's dominant position, and it proposes ordering the company to reveal the code to rivals.

The draft ruling also found Microsoft guilty of stifling competition in the media-playing software market. The company's own software, called Media Player, is bundled into Windows, giving it an advantage over rival products such as RealNetworks' Real Player.

However, the draft ruling stops short of demanding the total separation of Media Player from Windows.

Instead, the commission will order Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without Media Player, alongside the bundled version already on sale.

The draft ruling proposes that Microsoft be fined for breaking EU antitrust laws. However, the amount of the fine will not be decided until March or April.

Microsoft said it is still looking for a settlement. Spokesman Jim Desler said the firm's lawyers are still engaged in talks with the European regulators, but people close to the commission said the chances of reaching an agreement are slimmer now that there is a draft ruling.

Microsoft has indicated that it will appeal a negative ruling to the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, a process that can take years to complete. Negotiations are likely to continue while the courts assess Microsoft's appeal.

The remedies imposed on Microsoft may not take effect until after the appeal is completed.

Paul Meller writes for IDG News Service

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