What difference will it
make?"> In March, the European Competition Commission fined Microsoft a record 497 million euros (about $613 million) for abusing its dominant market position in operating systems. The Commission also ordered Microsoft to ship a version of Windows without bundled media players and to license protocols that would allow competitors to integrate their servers with Microsoft desktop systems. Microsoft filed two challenges to the ruling: one seeking to overturn the March ruling, and another requesting a suspension of these remedies until the larger case has been settled. Since the overall appeals process is likely to take several years, an immediate suspensionwhich could still be granted by the ECJwould effectively remove any threat to Microsoft, according to legal experts. By the time the case is concluded, the fast-moving world of IT is likely to have made it irrelevant. If the ECJ also denies Microsofts appeal, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith has said the company is prepared to carry out the measures prescribed by the Competition Commission.Vesterdorfs decision may be difficult for the ECJ to reverse, according to some legal analysts. To reverse it, the court must find a weakness in the Court of First Instances legal point, not in its factual findings. The CFI has been considering the suspension request since June, when Microsoft
filed its appeal, and the process culminated in late September with several days of oral argument before Vesterdorf.
The decision makes the possibility of a settlement between Microsoft and the Commission more remote. Part of the Commissions motivation is to establish a legal framework for similar situations that might crop up in the future, according to analysts, and this wouldnt be possible through a settlement.
Even though Microsoft is to immediately begin carrying out the Commissions measures, they wont necessarily make much difference, according to some critics. The restriction on media player bundling could keep media player competitors such as RealNetworks Inc. and Apple Computer Inc. from being forced out of the market. The licensing of communications protocols is designed to benefit competing systems in the server and networking worlds, such as the Linux OS and Samba, which allows Unix and Linux operating systems to communicate with Windows networks.
But PC manufacturers, if left to their own devices, likely would not to choose to install a stripped-down version of Windows, industry analysts point out. As for interface protocols, the Commissions decision does not require Microsoft to give away any information protected by intellectual property law.
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