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Microsoft faces new EC charges; IBM could be next

The European Commission's antitrust agency confirmed on Jan. 17 that it has again charged Microsoft Corp. with breaking competition laws, asserting that the company's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows “shields” the browser from rival offerings.

Microsoft had said the day before that it had received a formal statement of objections from the EC outlining the commission's preliminary findings in the case, which was sparked by a December 2007 complaint from browser vendor Opera Software ASA.

Microsoft said that it is “committed to conducting our business in full compliance with European law” and that it will study the charges before deciding whether and how to reply. The company has eight weeks to file a response and can request a hearing before the EC.

The EC hasn't released its full statement of objections. But in its confirmation of the charges, it said that bundling IE with Windows gives IE “an artificial distribution advantage which other Web browsers are unable to match.” The lack of competition could slow “the pace of product innovation,” the EC added.

Meanwhile, T3 Technologies Inc., a small mainframe maker in Tampa, Fla., said last week that it has filed an antitrust complaint against IBM with the EC. The company accused IBM of refusing to sell its z/OS operating system to T3 customers.

EC spokesman Jonathan Todd said the commission was already looking at competition in the mainframe market. “It's not a formal investigation,” Todd said. But it could become one if the EC believes that there have been abuses.

IBM rejected T3's claims and accused the upstart vendor of trying to violate its intellectual property rights.

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