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Mon 3 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Microsoft has its say

Neil Holloway, corporate vice president, sales, marketing and services, Microsoft EMEA, outlines the company’s response to the recent European Union ruling.

|~||~||~|The European Union recently found Microsoft guilty of abusing its Windows monopoly. It was fined $621 million and ordered to offer a version of Windows without its Media Player software, as well as share more information about its products with third parties. Arabian Business discussed the company’s reaction with Neil Holloway, corporate vice president, sales, marketing and services, Microsoft EMEA.

How does Microsoft plan to move forward following the EU ruling?

The way it stands at the moment is that we were found guilty of abusing a monopoly position and we have been asked to do certain things. We’ll obviously go through the appeals process in the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg and that’s our opportunity to get a stay on the actions that we’re being asked to [carry out.]

What is this point of principle that you couldn’t agree on with the EU?

They’re asking us to frame what features or functionalities both sides would feel comfortable about putting into windows. This goes back to the court case with the DOJ [US Department of Justice], where the view from the American courts in the end was that it wasn’t really for the courts to decide what features can go into products. It really is up the market to decide.

As a solution to the Media Player problem, they’re asking us to ship a version of Windows without Media Player in. Rather than us try to strip out Media Player, which was not easy for us to do, and try to create two versions of Windows, our solution was to ship three of the top competitor technologies. The EU decided that was not the solution they wanted to follow.

However, it now goes to the Court of First Instance. Our view is that it could continue for the next three to five years.

What about the ruling that you have to provide this new version of Windows [without Media Player] within 90 days? Are you going to be able to freeze the enforcement of that?

I’m not a judge. I can’t comment on that.

If you don’t get suspension of the 90 day rule, what happens to PCs coming into the Middle East?

The ruling itself affects the EU. However, we may take a decision on whether we decide to implement what they’re proposing in all countries around the world. It’s in our interest and also, I think, in the consumer’s interest to get the stay.

Why don’t you come to an agreement with whoever controls Linux? Wouldn’t that take the wind out of the case?

There’s nothing in the case that talks about Linux. The question with regards to what you settle with Linux is first of all, as you said, who do you settle with and what issues are you going to settle?


We already provide lots of capabilities for third parties to license our technologies and the agreement with Sun [announced a few days after the EU ruling] is a great example.

Do you foresee Microsoft being in a constant state of litigation and is that a situation Microsoft would be comfortable with, or do you see an alternative to this endless scrutiny?

I don’t think any company wants to be continuously scrutinised. Our actions over the last couple of years have demonstrated that we have learned a lot with regards to our position in the industry, what we need to do to be a responsible leader and the Sun deal is a very clear example of that. Given who we are, if you go out over the next five years it would be very surprising if we didn’t get into situations where competitors thought we were not being fair.

Take AOL, we have a great working relationship. Maybe it’s time for the industry to mature, which is what we’re doing and these settlements are good because they’re good for consumers. Customers want interoperability.

Why did the Sun deal suddenly materialise when it did?

We have been talking with Sun for a long time.

Isn’t this just going to go on? Now it’s Media Player, five years ago it was Netscape, next year something else?

That’s the whole point. How do you strike this balance? We’ve got to continue to evolve. If you ask consumers if they want more features in Windows over the next few years or they want it [to stay] flat, they’ll say they want more.||**||

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