Microsoft's EU Hearings Cut Short

Because European Union (EU) lawyers refused to offer an interim settlement, EU Judge Bo Vesterdorf ended Microsoft's antitrust hearings earlier than expected Friday, leaving the software giant's fate up in the air. Microsoft hopes that Vesterdorf will grant the company a temporary reprieve from its EU-imposed sanctions while Microsoft prepares its appeal.
Vesterdorf clearly wanted a settlement and warned both sides that his decision will be "difficult" to render if they can't meet halfway. The stakes are high both for the EU and for Microsoft: If Vesterdorf refuses to grant Microsoft a stay of the EU decision, the company will have to ship a new version of Windows XP that doesn't include Windows Media Player (WMP). The company will also have to begin sharing "secret" Windows Server technology with its competitors. If Vesterdorf does stay the EU decision, the EU will face increasing pressure from its counterpart in the United States. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has openly questioned the need for the EU to press additional charges against Microsoft, which has already lost a US antitrust case.
In court Thursday and Friday, however, Vesterdorf reserved his most critical questions for the EU lawyers, wondering aloud why the EU would require Microsoft to ship a version of Windows that doesn't include WMP. "Isn't it kind of dramatic to impose a remedy where you don't seem to know the results, with all the complications it is going to bring?" he asked. "Because if there's no demand \[for a version of Windows without WMP\], nobody's going to buy it." Microsoft has argued that it faces "irreparable harm" by being forced to ship such a Windows version.
Vesterdorf will likely render a ruling in the case within 60 days. Regardless of whether he backs Microsoft, as I expect him to, the company's appeal could take years.

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