EU: Microsoft move doesn't address tying allegation

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said Microsoft’s Thursday announcement that it was boosting interoperability failed to resolve allegations of product tying and it would try to verify the pledges by the company.

Microsoft said earlier it would make key technology elements of some of its best-selling software products widely available to boost the compatibility of its software with that of competitors and customers.

“This announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past,” the EU executive said in a statement.

“The Commission would welcome any move towards genuine interoperability. Nonetheless, the Commission notes that today’s announcement follows at least four similar statements by Microsoft in the past on the importance of interoperability,” it said.

In January, the EU executive started two formal antitrust investigations against Microsoft -- one relating to interoperability, and one relating to the tying of separate software products.

“The Commission will therefore verify whether Microsoft is complying with EU antitrust rules, whether the principles announced today would end any infringement were they implemented in practice, and whether or not the principles announced today are in fact implemented in practice,” it said.

“Today’s announcement by Microsoft does not address the tying allegations.”

Microsoft said the moves announced on Thursday applied to Microsoft Vista, Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Office 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007, as well as all future versions of the same products.

The Commission, in a landmark 2004 ruling upheld by an EU court last year, found Microsoft had illegally tied audiovisual software to its Windows product. Microsoft has paid more than 778 million euros ($1.16 billion) in EU fines and may face more.

Reporting by Dale Hudson, editing by Paul Taylor