Microsoft Cedes to EU in Antitrust Marathon

23 October 2007

BRUSSELS: Microsoft, hitherto undefeated world champion in procrastination-driven litigation, on Monday ceded to the European Union in the titans' battle over antitrust issues.

The world's dominant software company announced it would not appeal a ruling by a top EU court last month endorsing sweeping antitrust powers for local regulators to tackle monopoly abuse by technology companies.

Microsoft will now unbundle its MediaPlayer software, until now indivisibly incorporated into its Windows operating systems.

It also agreed to license use by competitors of Microsoft information that will enable their software to work more efficiently with certain versions of Windows - a concession long-resisted on grounds that it would compromise secret intellectual property.

Microsoft's decision not to appeal leaves the September ruling enshrined in European law.

The issue has been a battleground since the EU first penalized Microsoft in 2004 following complaints by competitors in 1998. It acquired significance as a trial of strength between an irresistible commercial force and an immovable bureaucratic object.

For Microsoft's competitors, the case was seen as an indicator of the EU's ability to regulate monopolies with a rigor similar to that of the US Justice Department in 2001.

Comments New York-based technology analyst Bill Whyman: "It was never just about these two issues [media-player software and interoperability] ...but about an effort to keep Microsoft under court jurisdiction and under regulatory supervision."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff