After the EU fined software giant Microsoft 899 million euro last February, things have been relatively peaceful. But a question by EU Parliament representative and Green Party member Heide Rühle is about to stir things up again. Ars Technica reports that Rühle asked the Parliament whether the EU’s legal findings against the company should prevent Microsoft from taking part in future public procurement discussions:
Rühle’s complaint rests on the fact that Microsoft was convicted in 2004 of “abusing its dominant position in the software market, causing a huge damage both on competitors and consumers.” Redmond appealed that decision, but the Court of First Instance (CFI) rejected the company’s appeal in September, 2007. Microsoft chose not to appeal that ruling, which, according to Rühle, gives the court’s decision res judicata status. The term refers to a situation in which the validity of the court’s findings, and the evidence of Microsoft’s abuse, is considered settled and is no longer contested.
So no more Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations in the EU offices? Will every European diplomat now browse with Firefox? Probably not, as the EU wouldn’t want to get into this ‘trouble’. They’ll find a way to make sure Rühle’s questions will remain rhetorical. The software company should probably just take it as a “effective warning”, says Joel Hruska from Ars Technica.
When EU’s antitrust chief Neelie Kroes fined the – now legendary – 899 million euro, reactions from the other side of the ocean were pretty negative, sometimes even emotional. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington called Microsoft the “EU’s ATM machine” and The New York Times wrote that the fine “might pose problems for companies like Apple, Intel and Qualcomm, whose market dominance in online music downloads, computer chips and mobile phone technology is also being scrutinized by the European Commission.” In their eyes, this question by Rühle might even seem like a provocation. I hope the reassuring words on Ars Technica might ease their minds.