Local Tech Wire

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – IBM (NYSE: IBM) faces antitrust investigations from the European Union on two fronts.

In a statement, IBM dismissed the investigations, saying “there is no merit to the claims being made by Microsoft and its satellite proxies,” according to Bloomberg news.

The BBC reported that IBM faces probes on two fronts: One for software related to mainframe computers and other for IBM’s dealings with “maintenance suppliers.”

T3 and Turbo Hercules filed complaints against IBM, the BBC said.

“T3 and Turbo Hercules allege IBM has been tying mainframe hardware to its mainframe operating system,” the BBC said.

The other probe, begun at the EU executive’s own initiative, accuses IBM of "discriminatory behavior toward competing suppliers of mainframe maintenance services."

The BBC quoted IBM as insisting the company is "fully entitled to enforce its intellectual property rights and protect the investments we have made in our technologies".

“The commission has concerns that IBM may have engaged in anti-competitive practices with a view to foreclosing the market for maintenance services, “in particular by restricting or delaying access to spare parts for which IBM is the only source,” the European Union said in a statement as reported by Bloomberg.

The opening of EU antitrust investigations does not mean the European Commission has proof of any wrongdoing, only that it sees cause for a deeper look into corporate behavior.

The European Commission said T3 and Turbo Hercules complain that IBM, by tying its hardware and operating systems together, "shuts out providers of emulation technology which could enable the users to run critical applications on non-IBM hardware."

Its own complaint addresses the concern that IBM "may have engaged in anticompetitive practices" by keeping competitors in maintenance services at bay, "by restricting or delaying access to spare parts for which IBM is the only source."

Mainframes are powerful computers used by large corporations and governments to store and process critical business information. It is estimated the vast majority of corporate data worldwide resides on mainframes.

The European Commission estimated worldwide sales of mainframe computers and operating systems in 2009 at some $13 billion billion. It put sales in Europe at about $4.5 billion billion that year.

T3 and Turbo Hercules make "emulators" software that acts as if it is running on an IBM mainframe whereas it is actually running on cheaper servers.

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IBM employs some 10,000 people at its campus in RTP.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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