EU May Force restrictions On Microsoft, Including Uncoupling Windows Media Player For QuickTime/Real

The European Unionis antitrust probe into Microsoftis business may yield more results than the USis suit. Reuters is reporting that the EU has concluded that Microsoft did indeed violate the EUis antitrust regulations, but that remedies are still being debated. One of the remedies being shopped around internally is to force Microsoft to uncouple Windows Media Player from Windows itself, making the multimedia software the same sort of downloadable option as QuickTime or Real Networksi product. From the report:

A thornier issue involves the proposal to require Microsoft to separate Media Player from Windows, a key grievance of rivals such as Apple QuickTime and Real Networks.

The software permits the playing of radio and television, as well as movies, and can be used to run other applications. The Commission is evaluating whether the proposed removal of Media Player and the consequent sale of a less functional Windows would benefit consumers.

Microsoft argues that consumers get the widest choice by receiving Windows with Media Player and being able to easily download rival audio-visual software such as QuickTime or Real Player free from the Web.

Microsoft has said innovation depends on being allowed to respond to consumersi demands and include functions they want. It says computer makers are free to include competitive products and hide those of Microsoft, which U.S. antitrust authorities accepted in last yearis court-approved settlement.

But critics say hiding applications from PC owners makes no difference to media content providers who use it, hidden or not. They ask why media content providers would spend more money to produce versions that work with Real Player or QuickTime if Microsoftis product is on every desktop.

They say consumers would get as much or more software than now if Media Player were stripped out and computer makers chose which audio-visual software to include. This would increase competition and innovation in audio-visual software, they say.

There is more information in the full story at Yahoo!is Web site.