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Will They or Won't They? EU Sends Mixed Signals on New Microsoft Charges

In a confusing series of revelations, European Union (EU) trustbusters this week said that they were--or were not--seeking further antitrust charges against Microsoft, depending on who was speaking at the time. First, the "International Herald Tribune" reported that EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes had told them that the European Commission (EC) was investigating further complaints against Microsoft, related to current and future products. However, EC spokesperson Jonathan Todd later told "Reuters" that the investigative body had no plans to open a new case against the software giant.

Will they or won't they? According to the Tribune, Kroes said that numerous companies had complained about further abuses by Microsoft, and that the EC wouldn't wait for the current antitrust case to go to court before raising new charges. "We have had informal complaints, and we are using our time now to look at them," she said. "We're not going to wait and do nothing."

Todd admitted that the EC had received complaints about Microsoft, but denied that the body would seek further charges. "The European Commission is not intending at the moment to open a new case against Microsoft," he said. "The Commission is, however, determined to ensure the proper application of the March 2004 decision and in particular the remedies imposed by that decision." Microsoft, you may recall, was ordered to pay a $620 million fine, ship a version of Windows XP without Windows Media Player (WMP), and to license server interoperability technologies to competitors. It has only slowly begun adhering to those requirements, leading to complaints that the company is purposefully dragging its feet.

Asked for clarification on a possible second set of Microsoft charges, Todd later said that the EC was leaving its options open. "We are currently in the throes of analyzing these informal complaints and the decision as to whether or not we will open up new case against Microsoft will only be taken once we have completed our scrutiny, our examination of the information we have received," he said.

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