Microsoft Corp is preparing a version of its Windows XP operating system that does not have Windows Media Player bundled, it emerged yesterday.
The company will this week fight for a stay of March’s European Commission antitrust decision, which would require Microsoft to unbundle WMP and open some of its server protocols to competing software makers.
The European Court of First Instance will hold a hearing, starting Thursday, at which Microsoft is expected to argue that the EC’s orders be stayed while Microsoft appeals them, a process expected to take years.
Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith reportedly said at a news conference yesterday that the firm has spent millions of dollars over the past few months so that we will be in a position to comply with whatever the court orders.
The EC order instructs Microsoft to make a WMP-free version of Windows available to European end users via the usual channels within 90 days. The company would be able to still sell the regular version in Europe.
But Microsoft would be forbidden from using any technological, commercial, contractual or other means to enforce use of the WMP-bundled version of Windows, and would have to make sure that both versions perform equally.
We will certainly be prepared to comply with the court’s order, whatever it may be, Smith reportedly said yesterday. Microsoft regards WMP, like Internet Explorer, as a component of the operating system that cannot be removed.
Smith has previously said that after removing WMP from Windows there will remain over 20 features in the Windows operating system that will not function and that many web sites will not function properly.
During a press conference in April, he said that there will remain European software developers that have products on the marketplace today that will not function on PCs that have that code removed.
The company filed its request for a suspension June 25, saying the EC order will not only hurt Microsoft, they will hurt many other software development companies and web site developers who have built products for the Windows platform.
The EC remedies also include a 497.2m euro ($612m) fine and a requirement that Microsoft disclose certain client-server Windows protocols to competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc, to encourage interoperability.
Once Microsoft releases software code under this decision, those intellectual property rights are lost forever, even if the Court grants our appeal, Microsoft said in June. Once IP is published and once products are released, they cannot be taken back.
The WMP part of the ruling came as a result of complaints from RealNetworks Inc, which saw its market share erode after – but not necessarily as a result of – Microsoft’s bundling of the software with Windows.