updated 2/24/2004 3:03:50 PM ET 2004-02-24T20:03:50

European regulators wrapping up their antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. intend to leave it to the U.S. software giant to work out exactly how to meet demands to release more programming code, sources close to the case said Tuesday.

The regulators have already prepared a draft decision that finds Microsoft violated European Union competition law on two counts essentially: by bundling its media player into its dominant Windows operating system, and by failing to provide competitors in the server market with adequate data so their products operate as well with Windows as Microsoft's own applications. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said Monday that he had set a date for deciding the long-running case — expected as early as next month — but that a settlement was still possible.

Monti is expected to fine Microsoft for past abuses and is considering requiring it to either sell Windows in the EU without a media player or include products made by rivals as well as its own.

But demands that Microsoft release more proprietary code for the server market could give the European Court of First Instance grounds to suspend the order if Microsoft appeals, as expected.

In another case involving intellectual property rights, Monti was forced last August to concede defeat by withdrawing an order against U.S. pharmaceuticals-data collector IMS Health Inc. The court had suspended the order for IMS to license its data collection methods to competitors in October 2001 — three months after it was issued.

The Commission's draft decision takes a different approach: ordering fines for past infringements and setting standards for server interoperability, but allowing Microsoft to work out the details of how to meet them, one source familiar with the case told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

"The modalities of it — that's for Microsoft to decide," the source said, citing the technical nature as well as intellectual property concerns. Microsoft would have a deadline to report back within the deadline on its compliance.

Another source told Dow Jones Newswires on condition of anonymity that Monti might not demand the release of any more proprietary data than the company has already offered in recent negotiations.

That would be good for Microsoft, which has argued that its rivals are trying to clone its most valuable products, including software known as Active Directory that lets organizations centrally manage users and computing resources on a network.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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