'We're not involved in any investigation,' Thompson says
Symantec Corp.'s CEO yesterday downplayed published reports that his company had taken the first steps in a possible European Commission antitrust investigation into Microsoft Corp.'s business practices.
Speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California, John Thompson said that the relationship between the two companies was one of "mutual dependency."
"We have hundreds of millions of users in the Windows operating environment," Thompson told the audience yesterday evening. "We make the Windows experience secure, and therefore there's a mutual dependency between us and Microsoft."
Last Thursday, Dow Jones Newswires reported that Symantec had made an "informal" complaint against Microsoft, a possible precursor to antitrust action (see report, "Symantec brings Microsoft complaint to EU"). The European Commission is the executive branch of the European Union. It is the same body that last year ordered Microsoft to pay $596 million in fines and ship a version of its operating system that does not include the Windows Media Player, ending a five-year antitrust investigation into the company.
In an interview after his talk, Thompson confirmed that his company had provided documents to the EC, but he dismissed the report, which had cited unnamed sources. "We're not involved in any investigation," he said. "We partner with Microsoft. We're not trying to go to court with Microsoft by any stretch of the imagination."
EC officials could not be reached for comment late yesterday.
Microsoft's dwindling antitrust burden was lightened considerably yesterday when RealNetworks Inc. announced a $761 million settlement with the software giant in the U.S. RealNetworks had been one of the major players in the earlier EC investigation, and this settlement ended the last major private antitrust case against Microsoft in the U.S (see update, "Microsoft, RealNetworks settle antitrust fight for $761M").
Last week, Microsoft announced plans to offer business users an integrated antivirus and antispyware product called Microsoft Client Protection. A beta version of this product is expected to be released by year's end. The company is already offering some customers a beta version of its Windows OneCare consumer security software.
Although Microsoft's full-fledged entry into the security software market is now "inevitable," the software company will not necessarily have an easy time pushing out Symantec, an established vendor, Thompson told the Commonwealth Club audience. "Nor do I think their entry into the market represents a preordained success," he said.