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RealTime IT News

EC Suspends Microsoft Sanctions -- For Now

The European Commission has temporarily suspended its order requiring Microsoft to remove its media player from European versions of its Windows operating system, giving the software giant the opportunity to continue to prepare its defense.

Monday was the deadline for the sanctions, which were lifted Sunday. The stay is a short-term reprieve for the software giant, which Friday requested an emergency stay of the media player requirement from the European Court of First Instance.

The ruling means the court has more time to figure out how it wants to proceed and means business as usual for Microsoft. The media player is a major component of Windows and is the leading application of its kind versus competing products like RealNetworks' RealPlayer and Apple's QuickTime products.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said the sanction suspension was an expected procedural move.

"On late Friday, we submitted our request to the Court of First Instance seeking a suspension of the remedies, so that initiates a process which will lead to a hearing and a decision sometime within the next couple months," Desler told internetnews.com. "The Commission [Sunday] agreed not to enforce the implementation of the remedies until this issue of suspension has been decided by the court."

Desler said the court will issue a timetable on the process, followed by a hearing and a decision on the remedies from the court.

Microsoft is determined to keep its successful business intact. Earlier this month, the vendor filed a 100-page appeal and asked the court to annul the EC's $613 million fine and media player requirement, levied March 24. The Commission gave Microsoft 90 days to comply with that order.

The EC also ordered Microsoft to open up Windows a bit to allow rivals to make products that integrate with the operating system. That deadline, which was originally for 120 days, was also lifted Sunday.

At the time of the appeal, Microsoft issued a strong statement against the EC, decrying its decision.

"The Commission's decision undermines the innovative efforts of successful companies, imposing significant new obligations on successful companies to license their proprietary technology to competitors and restrict companies' ability to add innovative improvements to their products," Microsoft said.

Microsoft isn't the only entity to comment on the EC's increased attention to antitrust matters, which includes scrutiny of the ongoing Oracle/PeopleSoft hostile acquisition battle. The U.S. Justice Department has criticized the European crackdown on Microsoft.

Microsoft's latest filing is the second part of the appeal process, which, because of the complexities associated with the sanctions, could take up to five years.

The Court of First Instance is expected to hold a hearing on Microsoft's request within the next two months.