Microsoft put itself on a collision course with European Union authorities yesterday in a dispute over the powers of a trustee who is to make sure the software giant stops violating antitrust law.
BRUSSELS, Belgium — Microsoft put itself on a collision course with European Union authorities yesterday in a dispute over the powers of a trustee who is to make sure the software giant stops violating antitrust law.
In addition, EU regulators are examining complaints that the company is intentionally engineering a scaled-down version of its Windows operating system so it won’t work as well with rival products. That version, which has been stripped of the Windows Media Player, was required by the EU as part of a ruling against the company in the European antitrust case.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, ruled last year that Microsoft abused its monopoly on computer software and told it to change its business practices.
The commission ordered the company to produce a version of Windows without a media player to European customers and share some software blueprints with competitors. Microsoft, which is appealing the case, also was fined a record $665 million.
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Part of the EU’s decision included an appointed trustee to monitor that the company lived up to this ruling.
But the commission said Microsoft’s proposal for the trustee was unacceptable, a charge the company rejects.
“Essentially they wished to have a veto on what issues the monitoring trustee could examine,” commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said.
Microsoft rejected the commission’s interpretation.
“All the proposals we are sending to the commission we believe are in line with the decision,” said Microsoft spokesman Dirk Delmartino.
Microsoft said it will respond to the commission’s charge by an April 11 deadline.
On the question of whether Microsoft has intentionally reduced the functionality of the scaled-down Windows, an EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said rivals claim that the software might not work well with other products.
The EU antitrust office said tests were continuing.
“We are still in the process of examining the results of market testing on the requirement that Microsoft offers a fully functioning version of Windows without Media Player,” commission spokesman Todd said.
Dave Stewart, deputy general counsel with Seattle-based RealNetworks, said the proposed scaled-down Windows system removes technology that makes it easy for media files to play from within another product, such as a PowerPoint or Word document.
Stewart said that’s just one of several ways in which RealNetworks says Microsoft is not complying with the EU’s order. RealNetworks has sued Microsoft for alleged monopolistic behavior.
Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler did not dispute that this version of Windows does not work as well as the full version.
But he said the company had to remove certain technology to comply with the commission’s order, and did not do so to intentionally stop competing products from working as well.
Desler said the company was still waiting for more formal feedback from the commission.
Material from Reuters and The Associated Press is included in this report.