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Microsoft EU ruling on hold

BRUSSELS -- The European Union temporarily suspended a landmark antitrust decision against Microsoft Corp. yesterday, pending a judge's decision on whether sanctions should be delayed until the company's appeals are exhausted.

The decision came a day before an EU order was to take effect requiring Microsoft to make Windows software available to European PC makers without its digital media player. The EU head office said it agreed to lifting the order temporarily only "in the interest of a proper administration of justice." But it said "the remedies are reasonable, balanced and necessary to restore competition."

On Friday, Microsoft asked the EU's high court to issue a long-term order barring the antitrust decision from taking effect while it appeals. An EU spokeswoman said she expected a court ruling in two months.

On March 24, the European Commission declared Microsoft guilty of abusing its "near monopoly" with Windows software. It levied a record fine of $613 million and demanded changes in how the company operates.

Microsoft was given 90 days -- until today -- to separate the media player from Windows software and 120 days to issue "complete and accurate" information to rivals in the server market so their products can become fully "interoperable" with desktop computers running Windows.

Microsoft said the antitrust order will hurt software firms and website developers that have built products for use with Windows.

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