Microsoft buys time in Europe

The European Commission says it will delay enforcement of an order demanding that Microsoft start selling a modified version of its Windows operating system in Europe.

The commission said it would wait until after a European appeals court in Luxembourg has had its say on whether to suspend the order. Microsoft had earlier asked the Court of First Instance for a suspension of the order while it appeals the commission’s antitrust ruling.

In the March ruling, the European Commission — the year-round administrative agency of the European Union — fined Microsoft $605 million and ordered it to start selling a new version of Windows, with Media Player removed, alongside the version it now sells with the audio- and video-playing software bundled into the operating system.

The commission said that it was “not appropriate” to enforce the deadline before the appeals court had decided whether to suspend it for the length of the appeal, which could take several years. That decision will probably be made in September, and could itself be appealed to the highest court, the European Court of Justice.

In a separate order in March, the commission gave Microsoft until July 27 to begin sharing secret information about Windows with rivals to allow them to make products that integrate with the Windows system. That deadline was also lifted.

Despite appearing to give ground, at least in the short term, the commission affirmed its arguments leading to the legal remedies, saying that they were “reasonable, balanced and necessary to restore competition in the marketplace.”

Microsoft said that the changes ordered would hurt not just its efforts, but also “many other software development companies and Web site developers who have built products for the Windows platform.”

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