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Japanese watchdog raids MS Tokyo

Anti-trust bust over OEM terms

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Microsoft's Tokyo headquarters was raided yesterday by Japanese anti-trust officials.

The Fair Trade Commission accuses Microsoft of seeking restrictive OEM software contracts with Japanese computer firms, according to reports.

It is unhappy that PC makers must sign away all rights to sue Microsoft over Windows if they are to pre-install Windows software on their machines.

Microsoft insists there is nothing wrong with such licence terms, but it will co-operate with the authorities, the BBC reports. "Some commission officials came to our headquarters this morning and they are holding a meeting with our company officials," a Microsoft spokesman said.

In a statement, Microsoft said it "believes that the patent-related provision is lawful under Japanese, US and EU law.

"Microsoft recently reviewed this provision again after receiving comments on it from some of its OEM customers. Microsoft has decided that, given its focus on improving customer satisfaction, it would delete the provision in its entirety from the next round of OEM contracts, which will take effect later this year. Microsoft last week notified its OEM customers, including its customers in Japan, that the provision would be deleted."

Europe

Microsoft has fought long and hard over anti-trust actions in the US and Europe. This is all over bar the shouting in America, but the company still awaits an EC ruling. Possible remedies could include a big fine or, more problematic, an order to Microsoft to sell a cut-down version of Windows in Europe.

The commission's particular fetish is Windows Media Player, which it wants to see decoupled from the rest of Windows. If such a ruling is ever enforced, Real will win chance to pollute many more desktops with its competing media player, invasive marketing and all.

Microsoft can handle a fine, but it will surely appeal any EC order to sell different software for Europe. This one could run and run. ®

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