Microsoft rivals: Modified OS isn't mediocre

A Microsoft rival used show-and-tell to make its point Friday that the software giant need not cripple its popular Windows operating system to comply with European regulators' demands, a source familiar with the case said.

The demonstration came on the last day of a three-day hearing to help the European Commission decide on charges that Microsoft abused its dominance over PC operating systems through Windows--found on more than 90 percent of computers. There will be no immediate results from the highly publicized but confidential hearing in which Microsoft defended itself against competitors' complaints about its business practices. Eventually, European Union hearing officer Karen Williams will send her evaluation to Competition Commissioner Mario Monti, who will use it to help him rule after a five-year probe. The EU executive is expected to decide by the end of June 2004, but if Microsoft objects it could start a lengthy appeal to the EU's top court in Luxembourg.

The commission has proposed that Microsoft offer a version of Windows without Media Player audio-visual software built in, so that rivals would be on a level playing field. In particular, it focused on rival products RealNetworks' RealPlayer and Apple Computer's QuickTime. The EU may also impose a hefty fine on Microsoft. Microsoft argues that if it were ordered to cut out Media Player, it would be forced to offer a substandard version of Windows which would be unable to run many popular programs. Both the manner and substance of Microsoft's warning made an out-of-court settlement seem more distant, a Microsoft critic following the case said. But RealNetworks demonstrated a version of a product known as "Windows XP Embedded" to show the operating system could work well without Windows Media Player, a source familiar with the case said.

News source: C|Net News.com

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