The European Commission (EC), the executive body of the European Union (EU), said this weekend that it would issue a ruling in the Microsoft antitrust case by the end of the year. The European case somewhat mirrors Microsoft's American antitrust case, with some major differences. First, the Europeans are focusing primarily on server interoperability rather than the desktop. However, the European case also includes a charge that Microsoft tied Windows Media Player to its dominant operating system, giving the company an unfair advantage.

"We expect to issue a preliminary decision by the end of this year," said European Commission Competition Directorate-General Philip Lowe. "We will have a final decision next year." Lowe noted that the EC was waiting on Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's ruling against Microsoft in the United States. "It is not yet clear which problems will be cleared up in the States," he said.

Europe's case against Microsoft is tied to an EC proposed leveraging theory that was upheld by EU courts in an otherwise unrelated merger case late last week. According to the theory, companies that leverage monopoly power in one market to gain an advantage over the competition in another market are breaking the law. The EU's embrace of this theory obviously has ramifications in the Microsoft case, since the EC has charged the company with leveraging its market power in the server and media player markets.