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Microsoft Takes Stands Against Spam, Sanctions

But Microsoft's aggressive campaign to amass patents in all areas and its licensing regime that excludes its greatest enemy, the Linux open-source operating system, created enough uncertainty that hopes for a unified approach any time soon were shattered. Yesterday, the working group of Internet engineers seeking a quick solution disbanded, although it did not blame Microsoft directly.

From Microsoft's standpoint, though, none of this will be as important as its own court date late next week in Europe.

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At hearings scheduled before the European Union's Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, the company will try to postpone sanctions ordered by antitrust regulators.

Microsoft is appealing the orders, which among other things would force it to make a version of its Windows operating system for European customers that does not include its media-playing programs.

Next week's hearings are simply to determine whether the sanctions should be set aside pending the appeal, which could take years.

But in practical terms, much is at stake.

If the company wins the postponement, its critics say, it will have effectively won because its media player will have time to become the overwhelmingly dominant digital media application by virtue of being bundled with Windows.

By the time the appeal runs its course, in this view, the marketplace will have moved on and made the sanctions irrelevant because little competition would be left.

The E.U. has also accused the company of withholding critical technical information needed by competitors so that their network server systems can operate with computers using Windows.

Microsoft argues that the sanctions are draconian, amounting to regulation of how it designs its products that will affect other companies that write programs for Windows.

At the very least, the company argues, it should have the right to exhaust its appeals before it is forced to change parts of its business.

Jonathan Krim can be reached at krimj@washpost.com.

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