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EC preliminary ruling on Microsoft expected

A top European Commission said even though the antitrust investigation into Microsoft is still going on, a preliminary ruling will be made before the end of the year.

"The investigation team is still examining concerns on issues such as tying in of related products," said director general of competition Philip Lowe.

The commission, the executive body of the European Union, had accused Microsoft of tying products such as its Media Player into the sale of its Windows operating systems. By doing so, Media Player and other software within its market-dominating operating system, Microsoft could, essentially, force users to buy non-Windows software, and potentially thwart competitors in, for example, the applications market, the commission suggested.

Lowe also said the commission is waiting to see which other antitrust problems will be cleared up in a court decision in the US.

Nine US states that have refused to sign a proposed antitrust settlement in the US case deal have argued that the settlement proposal does not go far enough to ensure that companies can compete against Microsoft. A decision in the US case, which is in the appeals process, is expected any day.

"We expect a preliminary European Commission view by the year end, with a final decision due next year," Lowe said.

The commission will send out its preliminary ruling to interested third parties such as Sun Microsystems, whose complaint sparked the commission's antitrust investigation into Microsoft.

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