EU Reaches Preliminary Decision in Microsoft Antitrust Case

   The European Union (EU) has reached a preliminary decision in its Microsoft antitrust case, and "The Financial Times" reported yesterday that the EU will charge the company with breaking European competition laws and abusing its dominant position in the PC market. The alleged charges, which appear to be similar to the charges the company faced in its original US antitrust case, will result in a vastly different outcome, however. According to "The Financial Times," the EU will fine Microsoft for its violations, although the amount has yet to be decided. And although these developments seem to preclude any sort of settlement, sources at Microsoft still say they hope to reach an agreement with the EU that would forestall any public decision in the case. "We are still actively engaged with the \[European Commission--EC\] in order to find a positive resolution to this case," a Microsoft spokesperson in Brussels, Belgium, said yesterday.
   "At this point, the European Commission is on the verge of wrapping up its Microsoft investigation," EC Spokeswoman Amelia Torres said yesterday. "There's a draft decision, but the decision itself has not been made, and certainly we cannot speak of fines yet."
   In an effort to garner feedback, the EC's competition department is circulating a draft of its final decision against Microsoft to other departments within the commission. The EC will also present its findings to officials in each of the EU's member states before it determines the size of Microsoft's fine, which could be as high as $3.1 billion. Which concessions the EC will require from Microsoft is unknown, but the commission previously called for the company to unbundle Windows Media Player (WMP) from Windows and share more server-interoperability information with its competitors. If found guilty, Microsoft will be required to change the way it does business. The entire process should be completed by May 1, sources say, after which time Microsoft can issue an appeal of the decision.

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