Microsoft Faces (Another) Euro-probe

Dennis Faas's picture

Regulators from the European Union (EU) have begun two investigations to find whether Microsoft is again constructing a tidy monopoly abroad.

The first probe examines a complaint by the Norwegian firm Opera, rival Internet browser to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Opera say it's illegal for Microsoft to include Internet Explorer free of charge with Windows, arguing that Microsoft should either include a range of browsers or none at all.

A second investigation is currently peering into claims Microsoft didn't give other software firms enough information on how to make their programs compatible with products such as Microsoft Word. This case is based on complaints by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, a group which represents firms like IBM and Nokia.

This second probe will also look at Microsoft's Office Open XML system, which is supposed to make it easier to transfer information between Microsoft programs and other software. Critics claim the system is not as open as it should be and suggest it's actually a way to damage the OpenDocument format which was developed by independent programmers for a similar purpose and isn't tied to any one company.

Microsoft has previously been in trouble with the EU, which governs most issues involving cross-border trading in Europe. In 2004 Microsoft was found guilty of anti-trust offences by insisting that its own media player be included in every copy of Windows. After losing an appeal, the company eventually paid fines totaling $745 million. (Source:

On the new claims, a Microsoft spokesman said "We are committed to ensuring that Microsoft is in full compliance with European law and court obligations." (Source:

There's no disputing that Microsoft products have an extremely dominant market share. Whether this is achieved illegally is yet to be decided, but if the courts do rule against Microsoft it could mean major changes to the way common Windows software such as word processors and Internet browsers are sold and used.

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