On Eve of Hearings, Microsoft Seeks EU Settlement

   Just 1 day before Microsoft is scheduled to appear at hearings in Brussels, Belgium, for its 4-year-old European antitrust case, the company admitted that it's seeking a settlement with the European Union (EU). Microsoft's European case centers on its Windows Media Player (WMP) and server-interoperability software but otherwise mirrors concerns from the seemingly never-ending US antitrust case, in which the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and several US states accused the company of abusing its monopoly power in desktop OSs. Now, with the EU case winding down, Microsoft would like to put a familiar end to a familiar problem and settle the case as it has done so often with various antitrust-related cases in the United States.
   "Microsoft remains committed to finding a constructive resolution to the case that addresses any concerns of the \[European\] Commission (EC) while preserving the company's ability to innovate and to improve its products," a company statement notes. Microsoft representatives say the company has submitted a "robust" response to the EC, which handles antitrust cases for the EU, along with "extensive" amounts of evidence showing that Microsoft is pro-competition.
   Meanwhile, beginning Wednesday, the EU will hold 3 days of closed-door hearings during which Microsoft will present its side and argue that it hasn't broken EU antitrust laws. Likewise, competitors such as RealNetworks and Sun Microsystems will present their own arguments and evidence showing that the software giant has broken the law. Although Microsoft is a US company, it must adhere to European laws to do business there. This case will likely set legal standards that apply to the company globally, legal experts say, especially if the EC issues a ruling that's unfavorable to Microsoft. The EU says it will likely reach a final decision on the Microsoft case in early 2004.

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