Microsoft Corp. will get one last meeting before the European Commission next week, with the board due to rule in its protracted investigation into the software vendors use of its market power before the end of next month.
But Microsofts antitrust wrangling wont end there because rivals will continue to pursue legal remedies in the United States regardless of the outcome in Europe, sources said.
Concerned primarily about Microsofts impact on the media player market, commission officials have been reluctant to accept remedies crafted by the company. Microsoft succeeded in settling antitrust litigation brought by the U.S. government without having to unbundle middleware from its operating system, but it may still be forced to untie parts of its technology to satisfy regulators in Europe, sources said.
A tougher European outcome would gratify rivals and users in the United States who have been critical of the U.S. Department of Justices settlement with Microsoft. It is unlikely, insiders say, that different sets of products would be developed for the European and domestic markets.
After a preliminary ruling in August that Microsoft illegally tried to extend its dominance in the operating system market into the server and media player markets, the European Commission proposed greater interface disclosure requirements that would allow low-end server rivals to interoperate with Windows products. For the media player market, the commission suggested unbundling Microsofts Media Player from the operating system.
For rival media player maker RealNetworks Inc., forcing Microsoft to untie Media Player from Windows would not be enough to redress past harm, a company spokesman said. RealNetworks, which has assisted Europe in the proceeding, is also suing Microsoft in the United States.
"Even a great decision from [Europe] is not enough to stem the tide of whats happening in the U.S.," said RealNetworks spokesman Greg Chiemingo in Seattle. "If you look backward, the fact of the matter is that Microsoft ... has hurt our business."
"Were still actively engaged with the commission in the hopes of reaching an amicable resolution to this case," said Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler in Redmond, Wash.