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The EU commission’s antitrust action against Microsoft is likely to proceed only after the dust around the software giant’s U.S. case settles in the coming weeks. Alexander Schaub, the EU’s competition director general, told The Standard: “The U.S. is still hesitant to cooperate with us in this situation. We need a partner who is confirmed and capable of acting, before we can continue bilateral meetings.” The head of the U.S. antitrust division has yet to be confirmed. Schaub also said the judgment of the appeal court reviewing last year’s ruling against Microsoft, and the reaction to it by the Department of Justice, would be of great interest for the EU’s cause in the case. The EU commission opened its case against Microsoft in August. The case is based on Microsoft’s attempts to leverage its monopoly for PC software to the server software market. This complaint is different from the one brought forward by the U.S. government against Microsoft. The next step expected from the commission is to set the date for a formal hearing, but it doesn’t have to meet a deadline. Schaub said that in the past, EU and U.S. antitrust officials had had “a successful division of labor. It would certainly be problematic if one side now said “we don’t want that anymore.” Charles James, President Bush’s designated chief antitrust watchdog, has so far avoided comments about the Microsoft case. Schaub’s remarks were made during a conference of antitrust officials from all over the world, held by the German antitrust office, Bundeskartellamt, in Berlin during the past two days. Speakers agreed that the Internet wouldn’t change the rules of competitive behavior that companies are subject to. Arguments that the fast pace of digital technology would make antitrust efforts obsolete — often introduced by companies under antitrust scrutiny — were dismissed by the officials. One main point of discussion concerned Internet marketplaces. John Nannes, acting assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s antitrust division, said that while such marketplaces generally increased competition, they also created “significant opportunities for collusion and discrimination that are not always easy to detect.” He pointed to the collusion on prices carried out on the pre-Internet electronic exchanges of the airline industry that were subject to antitrust actions in the early 1990s. On Tuesday, EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti expressed concern over the tourism marketplace developed by T-Online and its parent Deutsche Telekom. Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Another Net Consultancy Finds Shelter in the Arms of a Tech Firm Merrill Trims 4th-Quarter Earnings, Revenue Outlook for Oracle The Fall of the British Empire Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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