A Luxembourg court has granted nine parties the right to participate in Microsofts ongoing antitrust case between the software company and the European Competition Commission.
Meanwhile, one of the key remedies imposed on Microsoft by the commission, the introduction of a stripped-down Windows, is on hold while the commission evaluates new proposals for the softwares brand name, Microsoft said.
The intervenors on the side of the commission include RealNetworks and the FSF (Free Software Foundation) Europe, but Novell and the CCIA (Computer & Communications Industry) wont be participating following settlements with Microsoft.
On Microsofts side are two industry associations and several IT companies, according to the Luxembourg-based CFI (Court of First Instance).
The commission last year fined Microsoft a record 497 million euros ($667 million) and ordered the company to provide European consumers with a version of Windows without a bundled media player, and to share server protocols with competitors.
In December the CFI denied Microsofts request that the remedies be delayed, and the company is now in the process of complying.
In the meantime Microsofts appeal of the overall case will proceed before a panel of five CFI judges, headed by Judge Hubert Legal, but is unlikely to be resolved for several years.
Intervenors have the right to file papers in the case and to present legal arguments before the court.
They will also have access to the cases legal filings, which will be unavailable to the public.
To participate, companies had to prove the cases outcome would have a direct impact on their business.
On Microsofts side are the ACT (Association for Competitive Technology) and the CTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association), as well as Swedish business software maker Exor.
A fourth intervenor is a grouping of two companies, Norways Mamut and Italys Teamsystem, both of which make enterprise software.
The fifth intervenor is another group, made up of consumer-oriented IT companies DMD Secure.com, MPS Broadband, Pace Micro Technology, Quantel and Tandberg Television.
Gaining the commissions approval
The organizations to appear on behalf of the commission are RealNetworks, the SIIA (Software and Information Industry Association), the FSF Europe and Los Angeles-based advertising media company VideoBanner.
“We believe strongly that the appeals process will benefit from the participation of the broadest possible range of European companies,” said a Microsoft spokesman in an interview.
Microsofts compliance with the antitrust remedies has yet to gain the commissions approval.
In January the commission rejected Microsofts proposed name for the unbundled Windows—”Reduced Media Edition”—and Microsoft has submitted a range of other proposals, the spokesman said.
The commission has market-tested the names to assess how consumers will view them, and is now analyzing the tests.
Microsoft originally planned to deliver the unbundled Windows to retail by the end of February. PC manufacturers already have the software.
Microsoft and Time Warner Inc. got a break from the commission this week when the body decided not to review the companies acquisition of ContentGuard Holdings Inc., a maker of anti-piracy software.
The commission withdrew its scrutiny after French electronics giant Thomson joined the deal, saying it lacked the appropriate authority.
However, Director General of Competition Philip Lowe said there may be ongoing antitrust concerns in the “long term” and said the commission would continue to monitor the market situation.
In addition to the unbundled Windows, Microsoft is also required to license Windows server protocols to competitors.
Both remedies are intended to address competitive imbalances created by Microsofts effective monopoly on desktop operating systems, the commission said.
But even given the relatively quick institution of the penalties, some competitors say they are unlikely to make much difference, since Microsoft has already eliminated nearly all media-player competition.
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