Court begins hearing Microsoft appeal

EU judges are considering claims that Microsoft forced its way past rivals in the media player market by bundling its own player into its Windows operating system.

EU judges are considering claims that Microsoft forced its way past rivals in the media player market by bundling its own player into its Windows operating system.

The EU's 13-strong Court of First Instance is hearing the software giant’s appeal against a 2004 European Commission ruling ordering the company to provide a version of Windows without Media Player and to release documentation for its workgroup server protocols. Microsoft faces a daily fine of £1.4m for failing to comply with the ruling in full.

The court heard the commission claim that Microsoft had used its dominance in the PC operating system market to push its own media player ahead of rivals such as RealPlayer and Apple’s QuickTime.

Commission lawyer Per Hellstrom asked: “How can you compete with ubiquity?”

In turn, Microsoft has claimed that the commission’s anti-monopoly regulators had forced it to put an unwanted product on the market. Computer manufacturers had not shipped any PCs with Windows XP N (the version without the media player), Microsoft’s lawyers said.

Later this week, the court is to consider evidence from the European Committee for Interoperable Systems – which includes IT firms IBM, Oracle, Sun and Red Hat – in support of the commission’s ruling.

The judges will also examine the actions taken by the commission over Microsoft's failure to release its workgroup protocols in an acceptable format.

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