Microsoft steps into the European monopoly spotlight

Day of reckoning could be closing in

Day of reckoning could be closing in

Microsoft is coming under increasing scrutiny from European legislators, who are concerned that the number of applications bundled with Windows XP may be anti-competitive. As revealed exclusively by silicon.com at the end of August, the European Commission, which is already investigating the company for alleged anti-competitive behaviour, is likely to look closely at the latest release from Microsoft, which will hit the streets on 25 October. Thomas Vinje, partner with MoFo Brussels and chief legal adviser to the Computer and Communications Industry Association, told us at the time: "This case is in part about tying Media Player into the desktop and that has everything to do with Windows XP and Microsoft's future strategy. If Microsoft is not shaking in its boots then it is misleading itself." This morning's FT reports that Mario Monti, the European Union competition commissioner, is to begin a preliminary inquiry into XP this week. If he decides to take action, the scope of the existing investigation could be broadened to include XP, or a separate inquiry launched. If Microsoft is proven to have broken the law, it could face fines totalling up to 10 per cent of its annual sales. Meanwhile, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the district court judge presiding over the anti-trust case in the US, has appointed a mediator to help the two sides reach an agreement. Eric Green teaches negotiation and mediation of legal disputes at Boston University. He has until 2 November to help Microsoft and the government settle the issue. If he fails, Kollar-Kotelly will begin hearings in March to decide what punishment Microsoft will face for breaking anti-trust laws. silicon.com will be running a week-long series of special news reports, analyses and video interviews to co-incide with the launch of XP. We want your input: Will Windows XP have a strategic impact on your company over the next two years? Email editorial@silicon.com with your views.