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Brussels, 21st February 2008

Antitrust: Commission takes note of Microsoft's announcement on interoperability principles

The European Commission takes note of today's announcement by Microsoft of its intention to commit to a number of principles in order to promote interoperability with some of its high market share software products. This announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past. The Commission would welcome any move towards genuine interoperability. Nonetheless, the Commission notes that today's announcement follows at least four similar statements by Microsoft in the past on the importance of interoperability. In January 2008, the Commission initiated two formal antitrust investigations against Microsoft – one relating to interoperability, one relating to tying of separate software products (see MEMO/08/19).  In the course of its ongoing interoperability investigation, the Commission will therefore verify whether Microsoft is complying with EU antitrust rules, whether the principles announced today would end any infringement were they implemented in practice, and whether or not the principles announced today are in fact implemented in practice. Today's announcement by Microsoft does not address the tying allegations.

In its Microsoft judgment of 17 September 2007 the Court of First Instance established clear principles for dominant companies with regard to interoperability disclosures and the tying of separate software products (see MEMO/07/359). In January 2008 the Commission initiated two formal antitrust investigations in order to verify whether Microsoft is complying with the principles established by the Court.

One of these investigations focuses on the alleged illegal refusal by Microsoft to disclose sufficient interoperability information across a broad range of products, including information related to its Office suite, a number of its server products, and also in relation to the so called .NET Framework and on the question whether Microsoft's new file format Office Open XML, as implemented in Office, is sufficiently interoperable with competitors' products.

The second investigation concerns allegations of tying of separate software products, including Internet Explorer, to the Windows PC operating system.

The initiation of proceedings in these investigations does not imply that the Commission has proof of infringements. It only signifies that the Commission will further investigate the cases as a matter of priority.

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