Microsoft Nearly Violates Antitrust Terms

    October 20, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Contracts calling for makers of portable music players to exclusively bundle Windows Media Player software with their hardware caused federal concern.

Microsoft nearly ran afoul of federal antitrust regulators. This time, a requirement that music players could not ship with rival software if they carried Microsoft’s media product was the cause of concern, AP reported.

With at least one company complaining and Microsoft’s lawyers finding problems with the exclusivity requirement, the company withdrew the offending point from contracts. “We have a legal process in place that prevents these incidents from occurring,” Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake McCredy said.

The mistake probably should not have made it this far. After the 2002 antitrust ruling that nearly saw Microsoft broken up, a federal judge and the Justice Department have been monitoring the company. That provision of the antitrust case does not end until 2007.

Legal observers who commented on the music player issue were stunned Microsoft would knowingly bring itself into Justice’s crosshairs again. “It’s somewhat amazing it even happened,” Howard University law professor Andrew Gavil said in the report. “It’s troubling that anyone inside Microsoft was still thinking this was a legitimate business strategy.”

It’s even more amazing considering the European Commission has compelled Microsoft to distribute a version of its XP operating system in the EU without a bundled version of the Media Player software. Competitors like Real claimed the bundling gave Microsoft an unfair advantage and shut other companies out of the media player market there.

Recently, Symantec raised concerns with the EC regarding Microsoft’s plans to include security software with the next version of the Windows operating system, called Vista. Microsoft announced its Client Protection suite would ship with Vista in 2006, and would include antivirus and anti-spyware software along with a firewall.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.