Judge to Make Critical Ruling in EU-Microsoft Case

An appeal judge will decide if sanctions imposed against Microsoft should be suspended until the end of the appeal process, which could take several years.

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The latest episode in the long saga of Microsoft Corp.s confrontation with the European Union is set to unfold Tuesday, when representatives of the two sides meet with an appeal judge to decide if sanctions imposed against the company should be suspended.

Legal representatives for Microsoft will meet with Bo Vesterdorf, president of the European Court of First Instance, to decide if the sanctions—including a fine of €497 million ($613 million) and a demand for a version of the Windows without Windows Media Player—should be suspended until the end of the appeal process. The full appeal is expected to take several years to complete.

Although Vesterdorf described the meeting as an "informal gathering to sort out practicalities," including setting the date for the first full appeal hearing, it is understood the session will be closed to the public.

With a final judgment on the case not expected for several years, much hinges on the meeting for the future of Microsoft in Europe. The original decision, taken by the European Unions Competition Commission, had been heavily criticized by some U.S. government officials, leading to Competition Commissioner Mario Monti to describe the EU as "more united that the United States" over the issue of Microsofts anti-competitive behavior.

According to Monti, Microsoft had abused its dominance of the operating systems market both by tying Windows Media Player to Windows and by failing to release information about Windows to competitors in the server market. The company was given 120 days to provide information to other server vendors and 90 days to provide a version of Windows without Media Player, although both these sanctions have been temporarily suspended pending the outcome of Tuesdays meeting.


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