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A final say

Microsoft's last chance

The European Commission has given Microsoft one last chance to comment before concluding its antitrust case against the software giant.

Today's Statement of Objectives, coupled with additional evidence gathered by the Commission from a variety of consumers, suppliers and competitors, adds further weight to its previous findings that Microsoft has and is continuing to abuse its dominant position.

"This Statement of Objections, which includes the identification of appropriate remedies, gives Microsoft a last opportunity to comment before the Commission concludes the case," says Mario Monti, Competition Commissioner.

"We are determined to ensure that the final outcome of this case is to the benefit of innovation and consumers alike," Monti adds.

The accusations against Microsoft are twofold. First, by tying its Windows Media Player to the Windows operating system, it has "weakened competition, stifled product innovation and ultimately reduced consumer choice". Second, it has used its dominant market position to gain weight in the low-end server market.

Microsoft now has a month to respond to the remedies and must take action to stop its continuing abuse immediately to avoid heavy fines.

In order to achieve full interoperability between Windows PCs and low-end servers, the Commission is suggesting that Microsoft reveals interface information. This would allow rival server vendors to compete on a level playing field.

The Commission also proposes two remedies with respect to the bundling of Windows Media Player with the Windows OS. Either Microsoft unties the player by offering a version of Windows without it or the EC will impose a "must-carry" provision, obliging Microsoft to offer competing players with the operating system.

The EU's wrap-up of its antitrust probe comes after the US government settled with the software maker last year, citing similar concerns over the bundling of products and dominance in the PC market.

Representatives for Microsoft in Europe were not immediately available to comment on the latest EC statements.

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