As expected, the European Commission (EC) will merge its two Microsoft investigations to speed the legal process and present a united stand against the software giant. The European regulators began an antitrust investigation of Microsoft's server business about two years ago, when Sun Microsystems complained that Microsoft's desktop monopoly gave it an unfair advantage in other markets. Sun alleged that Microsoft was withholding information about Windows NT that Sun and other Microsoft competitors needed to make compatible servers and services, an abuse of its market power. Then, in February 2000, a second investigation into the same issues was announced, this time focused on Windows 2000. The consolidation brings the Windows 2000 investigation into the previous antitrust complaint.
The EC is the executive branch of the European Union (EU); it is responsible for regulating competition within the 15 countries that make up the EU. The EC can fine Microsoft up to 10 percent of its global annual sales if it is found guilty of the charges, though it has yet to impose such a fine. Microsoft made almost $23 billion in fiscal 2000, meaning that it could conceivably be fined over $2 billion. Microsoft recently filed its response to the charges with the EC, though these documents have not been made public