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European Union regulators are expected to press ahead with their antitrust investigation against Microsoft Corp., despite the software maker’s settlement last week with the U.S. Department of Justice. The European Commission, the E.U.’s antitrust regulator, said Monday that it did not change its own timeline following the U.S. consent decree. Microsoft is expected to respond this month in writing to E.U. charges in August regarding Windows 2000 and the company’s bundling of Media Player. Closed hearings on all charges, which cover older versions of Windows and focus on how the company has been seeking to leverage its dominance on operating systems to the server market, are scheduled Dec. 20-21, when Microsoft representatives will present the company’s defense in person. The E.U. is still studying the U.S. decree and declined comment on whether there would be any impact for its own probe. “It’s much too early to say. There might be certain features in the U.S. settlement which might or might not have an impact on the Commission’s own investigation involving Microsoft,” said Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres. A Microsoft press official declined comment on whether the company sees the U.S. agreement affecting its case in Europe. One source participating in the E.U.’s investigation said that the consent decree in the U.S. was unlikely to address the Commission’s concerns. Criticism has met the U.S. settlement, which provides Microsoft with a number of exceptions in opening up its Windows operating system source code, or underlying programming language. Some even consider the level of information Microsoft must provide to be minimal. “It won’t be close to solving the concerns the Commission raised,” the source said. Because the E.U.’s investigation emphasizes the server market, the Commission must continue with its own probe in order to exact remedies that will address its objections. The type of information disclosure agreement in the U.S. is unlikely to satisfy the E.U. Another aspect U.S. antitrust authorities dropped was Microsoft’s practice of bundling, which the Commission is pursuing in relation to Media Player. “That’s something that could be easily enforced by the E.U. and would have a huge impact, especially now, since the idea has been abandoned by the U.S.,” the source said. While some have argued that Microsoft was let off easy in the U.S., it’s widely held that the company faces tough scrutiny in Brussels. In blocking General Electric Co.’s planned takeover of Honeywell International Inc. earlier this year, after the U.S. approved the deal, the Commission has shown it’s not afraid to make controversial decisions. In addition, the same factors which played in the U.S. decision may not necessarily apply in Europe. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had set a Nov. 2 deadline for settlement, citing Sept. 11 and the economic downturn. The Commission, however, must act under the guidelines of E.U. antitrust law. “There’s nothing like that built into E.U. law,” said one Brussels-based competition lawyer. “The Commission will rule against Microsoft based on the merits of the case and decide what it thinks is an appropriate and fair remedy.” In the U.S., 18 states that joined the Department of Justice’s case against Microsoft have yet to approve the agreement. Copyright (c)2001 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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