"I don't think the fact that it only affects the E.U. is going to be much comfort to Microsoft," said Jeffrey M. Shohet, a California antitrust lawyer. "It's a huge market."
Shohet said the E.U. action might embolden other competition authorities around the world to embrace the E.U. approach to bundling rather than the path chosen by the United States.
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Others doubt that consumers will want the stripped-down product.
"I don't think it will change the competitive landscape," said Chicago antitrust lawyer Hillard M. Sterling.
But Andrew I. Gavil, a law professor and antitrust expert at Howard University, said the beauty of the ruling is that consumers now get to decide.
Justice Department lawyers had lobbied their E.U. counterparts hard to try to get them to craft a settlement with Microsoft that mirrored the U.S. approach.
Microsoft, too, had pushed hard for a settlement with former E.U. competition commissioner Mario Monti, whose term ended in the fall. But negotiations broke down, largely because Monti sought a settlement that would cover future bundling of applications, which Microsoft would not accept.
Smith said the company still wants to reach a negotiated settlement with the E.U. The company recently reached agreements with two of the key U.S. organizations that had encouraged and assisted with the European case. Novell Inc., which makes server systems, and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a trade group, both received cash payments from Microsoft and withdrew from the litigation.
Since its deal with the Justice Department, Microsoft has spent nearly $3 billion settling various antitrust and other claims against it by companies big and small, as well as several U.S. states.