IBM is facing a European Commission antitrust probe over allegations that it has abused its position as a dominant player in the mainframe computer business.

The investigation, according to a statement issued by the EU, is being divided into two separate cases: One looks at a complaint that the company has illegally tied its mainframe hardware to its operating system; the other probes whether IBM has engaged in discriminatory behavior against competing suppliers of maintenance services.

IBM, which says it will cooperate fully with the EU, maintains that the complaints are totally without merit.

The first of the two EU probes, into the tie between the mainframe hardware and the operating system, acts on a complaint laid by software vendors Turbo Hercules and T3. Both companies provide “emulators” – software that allows IBM mainframe applications to run on non-IBM platforms. By tying the operating system closely to its mainframe, the companies argue IBM has been able to effectively clamp down on competition.

The second complaint is being launched into concerns that IBM may be hurting competitors in the mainframe maintenance market by delaying access to spare parts.

In a statement the EU said, “The Commission has concerns IBM may have engaged in anti-competitive practices with a view to foreclosing the market for maintenance services.” It went on to say the initiation of proceedings does not imply the Commission has proof of infringements, only that it will investigate the cases “as a matter of priority.”




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