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European competition commissioner Mario Monti has signalled that Microsoft's response so far to EU antitrust investigations has failed to head off action against the company. Instead, he's considering merging the two main current enquiries into one.

His remarks, made at a press conference yesterday, were the latest in an intermittent series of semi-delphic utterances from Monti indicating that Microsoft has serious problems brewing in Europe. One of the two current enquiries was kicked off by the European Commission, and covers whether or not Microsoft is using its desktop position to leverage a dominant position in the server market. The other stems from a complaint by Sun that Microsoft competing unfairly by refusing to give it interoperability information.

Monti is currently nearing the end of an examination of some 9,000 pages of evidence he received from Microsoft last November, and he says the next move will be in May at the earliest. Microsoft will be given the opportunity to defend itself at a hearing, the date of which has yet to be set.

Recent signs that the US action against Microsoft is starting to fizzle will, if anything, encourage Monti to press on with the European action. The antitrust authorities in Europe and the US have for some years effectively agreed not to poach on one another's turf, and not to duplicate investigations, but Monti yesterday pointed out that while the US market was a matter for US authorities, he had a duty to support competition in Europe. If the US folds, there won't be any lead for Europe to follow, so local action will have to be taken instead.

But don't hold your breath. The word "accelerate" seems not to have passed his lips. ®

Related stories:
MS responds to Europe's move to open up Windows
MS tells EU it's always pushed standards, interoperability
EU goes legal against MS - company should open up Windows

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