BRUSSELS, Belgium - A European Union court
ordered Microsoft Corp. yesterday to immediately divulge some trade
secrets to competitors and to produce a version of Windows software
without a music and video player.
The 91-page ruling thwarts Microsoft's attempt to delay, pending
appeal, implementation of the EU's landmark antitrust decision in
March that demanded changes in the software giant's business
The decision may restrict Microsoft's ability to add features to
Windows and hurt its efforts to fend off competitors in Europe,
which accounts for about one-third of the company's sales.
The EU said the order would prevent Microsoft from quashing rival
products, such as the free Linux operating system and RealNetworks
Inc.'s media player.
"This is a very serious setback for Microsoft," Nicholas
Economides, an economics professor at New York University, said.
"It's the first time that a court has told them what they can and
can't include in Windows. It's like telling General Motors what
features it should have in their cars."
Microsoft said the ruling still contained some encouraging
comments, which could help reopen settlement talks with the European
"There is ample room for us to continue to press forward with
cause for optimism," Microsoft counsel Brad Smith said.
The Redmond, Wash., company did not immediately say whether it
intended to offer a version of Windows without the Media Player in
Europe alone or more broadly around the world. Software that plays
media files is increasingly in demand as more consumers get
broadband connections to the Internet and use their PCs as
There is also the question of precisely what computer code
Microsoft will share with competitors so that those companies'
programs work better on networks run by Microsoft server
In yesterday's ruling, the European Court of First Instance in
Luxembourg said Microsoft "has not shown that it might suffer
serious and irreparable damage as a result of implementation of the
"Microsoft's application for interim measures is therefore
dismissed in its entirety," the president of the court, Judge Bo
The EU was buoyant, since its ruling was fully upheld and would
force immediately compliance from Microsoft.
Microsoft said it would look closely at the order before deciding
on its next step but would comply fully with the court order when it
came into force. The full appeals process could take up to five