updated 1/24/2005 2:04:15 PM ET 2005-01-24T19:04:15

Microsoft Corp. said Monday that it will not appeal a December court ruling that it immediately ship a version of Windows stripped of the company’s music and video player and also divulge some software blueprints.

The software giant had sought a delay while it appeals the antitrust sanctions, which the European Union ordered last March.

Microsoft said the first versions without Media Player will hit EU retailers in the coming weeks and would cost the same as the full version of its Windows operation system. The version will only be available in the 25-nation bloc. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The company also said it had already launched a Web site to provide competing server software makers with information on how they can license source code to enable their products to better communicate with Windows-powered desktops.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether any companies had already taken advantage of the offer yet.

Last month, an EU court ruled that Microsoft had to divulge those trade secrets and produce a version of its flagship Windows operating system without its Windows Media Player, even as it appealed the March EU ruling that ordered those measures.

“Rather than seeking to suspend the (European) Commission’s remedies, Microsoft’s focus now is on working constructively with the Commission on their full and prompt implementation,” the company said.

Analysts said Microsoft’s decision not to appeal the interim ruling was expected, and doubted that it would have a major effect on Microsoft’s business.

Charles Di Bona, an analyst with Bernstein & Co., said the bigger test will be whether Microsoft prevails in the broader appeal, but it will be some time before that is decided.

Microsoft has called the version of Windows without Media Player a degraded version of its flagship platform and said it would harm consumers more than it would help them.

The European Commission has said offering users a scaled-down version of Windows would give consumers a choice to include other media systems.

The implications for Microsoft are sizable since software that plays media files is increasingly in demand as more consumers get broadband Internet connections and use their PCs as entertainment centers.

Microsoft insisted, however, that not appealing the December interim decision did not affect its overall strategy of appealing last year’s antitrust order, which levied a record euro497 million (US$651 million) fine and imposed the other measures. Regulators had determined that Microsoft abusively wielded its Windows software monopoly and locked competitors out of the market.

The EU’s March ruling went much further than Microsoft’s 2002 settlement of similar charges with the U.S. Justice Department, which required only that users be allowed to hide Media Player and set another as the default.

Microsoft has reached settlements with four of the five major parties that intervened against it in the EU case — Novell Inc., the Computer and Communications Industry Association, Time Warner Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Seattle-based RealNetworks Inc., maker of a rival to Microsoft’s Media Player, is Microsoft’s last big commercial opponent in the case.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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