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Microsoft Faces New Antitrust Complaint

Microsoft is facing new antitrust questions from high-tech watchdogs in Brussels. But they aren't from the European Union.

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), which includes Microsoft rivals IBM, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Nokia and RealNetworks, filed a complaint with the EU accusing the software company of using Office and other application bundles to an unfair advantage.

The ECIS said Office is a prime example why the EU should investigate practices that reinforce Microsoft's alleged monopolies and extend its market dominance into current and future products.

Microsoft's practices "threaten to deny enterprises and individual consumers real choice among competing products," according to the group's statement.

"We are at a crossroads," said ECIS chairman Simon Awde. "Will one dominant player be permitted to control those conditions, or will the rules that guarantee competition on the merits prevail, to the benefit of all?"

In addition to asking for a new EU investigation, Awde called on a 2004 antitrust ruling to be "rapidly and broadly enforced."

Microsoft isn't surprised by the latest charges from rivals.

With its introduction of Office 2007 and expected unveiling of Windows Vista "a few competitors will complain," Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans told internetnews.com.

"ECIS is a front for IBM and a few other competitors who constantly seek to use the regulatory process to their business advantage," Evans continued. "When faced with innovation, they choose litigation."

Microsoft is readying an April appeal of the EU's 2004 ruling, which also focused on Microsoft bundling applications with its Windows operating system.

The EU's decision, which came armed with a record $613 million fine, called for Microsoft to open its code to third-party software developers.

ECIS' complaint is just the latest involving Microsoft's response to the 2004 sanction.

The EU has threatened to fine Microsoft $2.45 million unless it meets orders to free up information about its software that will allow others, including competitors, to create applications that work with Windows products.

Meanwhile, Evans said Microsoft hasn't received any questions from the EU about the new complaint.

"We will respond quickly and comprehensively to any requests for information from the Commission on this complaint, but no such requests have been received so far," Evans said.