Microsoft unworried about European investigation

US Software giant Microsoft does not expect the European Commission to find it in breach of European law concerning business monopolies, despite Tuesday's Justice Department ruling.

The European Commission decided in February to investigate whether or not Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system broke European competition rules. It has been suggested that the Windows 2000 server may be less compatible with some non-Microsoft client operating systems. Shortly after Tuesday's ruling, the Commission said that it would rethink its investigation in light of the Department of Justice guilty verdict.

A Microsoft spokeswoman, however, says that the two investigations are "totally unrelated" and adds that the company is, "confident that it has done nothing illegal in European law."

Although the European Commisson is investigating different issues, senior partner with Charles Russell solicitors, Robin Bynoe, says that any factual findings in the Department of Justice will inevitably be taken into account in the Commission's investigation.

The Microsoft verdict has already sparked a political debate as to whether the European Commission should reach also condemn Microsoft thus paving the way for legal action by companies within individual member states. Conservative MP and shadow minister for technology Alan Duncan is critical of Justice Jackson's decision and follows the argument that Microsoft is being unfairly punished for its competitiveness. "I am concerned that it has been penalised for being so successful," he comments. "It's not as if they have displeased consumers." Duncan also promises the government a fight if it tries to support an aggressive probe by the European Commision into Microsoft's European business practises. "[New Labour's] instinct is to interfere," he adds. "I think that the government should be cautious. We would not want litigation"..."would not want to interfere."

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry does not reveal the governments view of the guilty verdict but indicates that it is likely to support the European Commissions findings. "We will have to look at what [the EC] is saying but obviously we're part of the EU and part of a common market."

Alan Stevens, the Consumer Association's Head of Digital Services, has welcomed Judge Jackson's ruling. "If it leads to more competition then that has to be seen as good...our concern is the amount of time it will take to come into effect." Stevens accepted that it was Microsoft's "absolute right" to appeal the ruling, but is concerned that the legal process might mean "we could be looking at 2002" before there is any final resolution.

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