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The Wheels of European Commission decision-making grind exceedingly slow. But it appears that, after three-and-a-half years, the Brussels bureacrats have reached a decision over Microsoft's past behaviour within the EU.

Granted, it's a preliminary decision and granted the ruling is not expected to be published until March, but EC officials feel confident enough to brief favoured news outlets, that yes, Microsoft broke Community competition law by abusing its dominance of the PC market.

Microsoft will of course challenge any such finding in the EU's Court of First Instance. At stake will be a big fine that the European Commission will no doubt seek to levy. More importantly, Microsoft will defend itself against any attempt by the EC to enforce the separation of Windows Media Player from Windows. Last, there will be a squabble over what and how much information Microsoft will be ordered to share with its rivals.

The unbundling of Windows Media Player is a hobby horse of the European Commission and it is where it parts company from its US anti-trust counterparts. ®

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