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Microsoft Targeted By New European Antitrust Probes

January 14, 2008

Mark Ostrau, Co-Chair of the Fenwick & West Antitrust and Unfair Competition Group, was recently quoted in a Dow Jones article entitled, "2nd Update: Microsoft Targeted By New European Commission Probes."

The European Commission announced it has launched two new commission probes into Microsoft's competitive behavior. The investigations stem from complaints by rivals that Microsoft has not shared interoperability information for products including Office software suite, and unfairly bundles its Internet-browsing software with the Windows operating system.

The new probes come three months after Microsoft decided not to appeal a European court ruling that forced Microsoft to pay hundreds of millions of euros in fines and share information related to server software with rivals needed to create compatible products.

Ostrau noted that the previous investigation involved a separate set of products.

"You have to interpolate whether Microsoft's behavior was a continuation of activity that they haven't been told they couldn't do yet, versus Microsoft trying to push the envelope again," Ostrau said.

It's unsurprising that the commission would focus on Office, Ostrau said, because of its market dominance. "Some would argue that the Office product has even potentially more power than the [Windows] operating system," he said.

"These investigations don't necessarily mean Microsoft has done anything wrong, the commission could find it is adequately providing information and isn't unfairly tying the browser," Ostrau said, adding however that, "often times with Microsoft, where there's smoke, there's fire."