EU Delays MS Ruling Until Wednesday

Judge Bo Vesterdorf may grant Microsoft a stay on some or all of the commission's antitrust penalties imposed earlier this year, or deny a stay.

A European Union judge will hand down his decision on a key Microsoft Corp. appeal on Wednesday afternoon, the registrar of the EUs Court of First Instance said on Monday.

The court will confirm the date in a statement issued later on Monday, according to the registrar. The CFI will make publicly available Judge Bo Vesterdorfs decision on whether to grant Microsoft a reprieve from antitrust penalties imposed earlier this year by the European Competition Commission.

Vesterdorf, the president of the CFI, is expected to hand down a lengthy and detailed document that will have an important influence on how European courts approach competition issues, particularly in the IT industry. He may grant Microsoft a stay on some or all of the commissions remedies, or deny a stay.

Much depends on the decisions critique of the commissions case. If Vesterdorf heavily criticizes the commission, for example, it could help to convince the commission to reopen settlement talks with Microsoft. Microsoft has said it wants a settlement, but will not budge on certain core issues.

Whatever the outcome, the decision is almost certain to face appeal before the European Court of Justice, the EUs highest court, meaning that no final decision will arrive for several more months.

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.

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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 four or five years, a suspension would effectively remove any threat to Microsoft, according to industry observers. Even if the suspension is denied, some critics say the remedies may not be strong enough to affect the market.

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