Russian antitrust unit targets Microsoft over XP availability

The antitrust police are after Microsoft again, but this time in Russia. Unlike other antitrust investigations involving Windows, the Russian case is focusing on Microsoft's phase-out of XP, rather than bundling of various components into the base operating system.

The antitrust police are after Microsoft again, but this time in Russia. Unlike other antitrust investigations involving Windows, the Russian case is focusing on Microsoft's phase-out of XP, rather than bundling of various components into the base operating system.

The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) announced on June 4 it had opened an investigation of Microsoft. The charges -- according to a version of a note on the government's Web site, which I translated into English using the handy Bing Translator: Cutting off sales of XP as of June 2008, despite the fact there remains continuing demand for XP.

While the FAS notes that Microsoft is continuing to provide XP via "downgrade rights," which are available for certain versions of Windows Vista, there seems to be some kind of problem with "setting different prices (tariffs) at the same item," according to the translated complaint.

The charges against Microsoft will "be considered" by the Russian antitrust body on July 24.

Microsoft's response, delivered by way of a corporate spokesperson:

“Microsoft has not yet received notice of any new investigation. However, we will cooperate with any inquiry and remain committed to full compliance with Russian law.”

I guess the Russian authorities haven't been tracking all the continued leases on life Microsoft has given XP, the operating system that just won't die....

Meanwhile, Microsoft also is facing antitrust charges in the EU over its browser-bundling policies with Windows, in a case brought by Opera Software. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the European Commission is considering requiring Microsoft to distribute browsers from its various competitors, possibly by delivering them as part of Windows, as one potential remedy in that case. (Opera suggested Microsoft be required to do level the playing field by distributing its competitors' products when it originally brought its antitrust complaint back in 2007.)

The EC is expected to issue its ruling in the Opera case in the coming weeks.

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