BRUSSELS, Belgium - Microsoft Corp. has continued to abuse its dominance of the software market and could be subject to fines, the European Commission said yesterday in a preliminary ruling in its long-running antitrust case against the company.
The commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, also said it wants to force Microsoft to disclose the software coding that competitors would need to make their server systems compatible with Windows.
In a statement of objections it has sent to Microsoft, the commission repeated accusations that the software company has leveraged its dominant position in computer operating systems to gain a dominance in server systems and music-playback software.
Microsoft weighs ruling
Microsoft said it was examining the commission's statement.
The commission's statement detailed the remedies it wants to impose on Microsoft to ensure that competition is free in computer software markets, including levying a fine of up to 10 percent of Microsoft's annual global sales. The amount of the fine would depend on the severity and duration of Microsoft's perceived offense, officials said.
To restore competition in the market for audio and video software, the European regulator has proposed that Microsoft stop selling its Media Player as a package with its ubiquitous Windows operating system or that Windows be forced to carry a competing product.
The statement followed extensive research conducted by the commission's antitrust regulators this year, said commission spokesman Tilman Luder.
`Very strong case'
"We have now a very strong case," Luder said. "The case as it stands now is too strong to ignore for the company at issue."
Mario Monti, the EC's commissioner for competition issues, said Microsoft is being given "a last opportunity to comment" before the case is concluded.
Luder did not say when the commission would make a final ruling. "There is no deadline for antitrust cases," he said. "The final decision is months rather than years away now."
Microsoft's shares lost a penny yesterday to close at $25.65.