27 January 2004 European Commission antitrust officials have entered the closing stages of their Microsoft monopoly investigation.
The Commission is investigating claims that Microsoft obstructed other companies’ software from working on its Windows operating system. According to reports, it has already drafted a final ruling on the three-year case.
If the Commission finds against Microsoft, it will be fined and forced to separate its Media Player application from the Windows code and to stop bundling it automatically with the operating system.
Regulators also want Microsoft to give its competitors in the low-end server market more technical information so that they can improve interoperability between their systems and Microsoft’s.
A ruling was expected before a new Commission president is named in June, but it is now expected to be announced sooner.
“There is a draft on the table and this should come as no surprise — after all, the investigation has been going on for long enough,” said Amelia Torres, a spokeswoman for the competition panel. “Now we have to conclude.”
A Microsoft spokesman said that the Redmond, Seattle-based company still hoped for an “amicable resolution” to the negotiations that have continued since a three-day hearing on the case in November 2003.
The final stages of the ruling involve an internal consultation on the draft, which is then circulated to the national competition regulators of the European Union’s member states. The 20 department heads of the commission will then take a final vote, which is expected in March or April.