Microsoft Europe Chairman: The Technology Opportunities and Legal Challenges Ahead

When Microsoft Europe Chairman Jan Muehlfeit recently met with Informilo in Brussels he talked about how software can transform healthcare, energy efficiency  and education. He also outlined the opportunities the Redmond-based software giant offers start-ups through its BizSpark program. And, he addressed how Microsoft is once again facing a showdown with the European Commission. “In business, as in life, there is no changing the past,” says Muehlfeit. “We can only change the future.” Click on “read more” to see the video and the rest of the story.

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On March 5, Microsoft held its annual Growth and Innovation Day in Brussels, to showcase its partner companies and to host debates on important issues such as building a culture of trust online and the role copyrights, patents and other intellecutal property will play in the development of cloud computing and advances in green technology.  Among its guest speakers was Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society.

While Microsoft likes to emphasize the number of jobs it creates in Europe and its role in helping countries like Portugal improve its education system, the U.S. software giant is still battling an image problem on the Continent. Microsoft has been clashing with the European Commission for nearly a decade, culminating with a landmark court case in September, 2008, in which the court upheld fines of  €899 million or $1.1 billion, for Microsoft’s failure to comply with anti-trust orders.

On March 5, the day that Microsoft hosted its annual innovation event in Brussels, the Commission announced that it no longer needed a full-time monitoring trustee to ensure Microsoft was obeying an EU order to share technical information with rivals. But its troubles with the Commission do not appear to be over. European antitrust officials are once again probing possible anticompetitive behavior by Microsoft. This time the Commission is investigating the legality of bundling Microsoft’s Web browser, Internet Exporer, with its Windows operating system and hindering interoperability by not following accepted Web standards. In addition, Microsoft is accused of tying other separate software products, including desktop search and Windows Live, to Windows.

The complaint was originally filed by Opera, a Norwegian browser company which competes with Microsoft. The Mozilla Foundation, which is behind the Firefox browser, and Google, which has launched its own browser, called Chrome, have since joined the complaint. Opera is arguing that like Netscape, Opera and Firefox would be a lot further today if Internet Exporer was not tied to Windows. The competitors are asking the European Commission to obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows and/or carry alternative browsers pre-installed on computers.

Competitors, it seems, are not ready to let Microsoft unbundle itself from its past, arguing that the software giant’s past and current behavior could have dire consequences on the industry’s future.

 

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