antitrust regulator targets Microsoft's web browser,
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[August 26, 2014]
By Gerry Shih and Paul Carsten
BEIJING (Reuters) -
Microsoft Corp's internet browser and media player are
being targeted in a Chinese antitrust probe, raising the
prospect of China revisiting the software bundling issue
at the heart of past antitrust complaints against the
firm in the West.
Microsoft has not been fully transparent with information about its
Windows and Office sales, but has expressed willingness to cooperate
with ongoing investigations, Zhang Mao, the head of the State
Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), told reporters at a
briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
As Windows became the world's dominant operating system in the 1990s
and 2000s, the issue of how Microsoft bundled its web browser and
media player became the focus of respective antitrust cases brought
by U.S. and European authorities.
Microsoft settled in 2001 with the U.S. Department of Justice a
long-running case centering around whether it could bundle its
flagship Internet Explorer browser with Windows.
In 2004, the European Union ordered Microsoft to pay a 497 million
euro ($656 million) fine and produce a version of Windows without
the Windows Media Player bundled. The fine was later increased to
nearly 1.4 billion euros.
China's focus on two products previously litigated elsewhere appears
to form the basis of its investigation, but the probe could extend
beyond the media player and browser bundling issue, said You Youting,
a partner at Shanghai Debund Law Offices.
"It's possible the government hasn't been successful in finding what
they're looking for," You said. "But by starting with these two
products, it gives them time."
A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment when contacted by
The Microsoft investigation comes amid a spate of antitrust probes
against foreign firms in China, including mobile chipset maker
Qualcomm Inc and German car maker Daimler AG's luxury auto unit
Mercedes-Benz. The probes have renewed fears of Chinese
The SAIC said earlier this month that Microsoft had been suspected
of violating China's anti-monopoly law since June last year in
relation to problems with compatibility, bundling and document
authentication for its Windows operating system and Microsoft Office
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The SAIC, one of China's three anti-monopoly regulators, formally
announced its investigation into Microsoft's activities this month
after officials raided Microsoft offices in several major cities and
met Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Mary Snapp for questioning in
"The investigation is presently ongoing, and we will disclose the
results to the public in a timely fashion," Zhang said, adding that
the probe is one of nine opened this year which include the
software, tobacco, telecommunications, insurance, tourism and
The companies involved in the nine investigations comprise domestic,
foreign, state-owned enterprises and trade associations, Zhang said.
(1 US dollar = 0.7575 euro)
(Reporting by Gerry Shih, Michael Martina and Paul Carsten; Editing
by Ryan Woo)
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