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Mario Monti joins Axis of Evil...

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A senior figure at the Department of Justice and the leader of the Senate have damned Mario Monti's judgement on Microsoft.

Competition Commissioner Monti yesterday levied a record fine of €497m on Microsoft and ordered it to offer a version of Windows without Media Player.

Hewitt Pate, head of antitrust at the Department of Justice, described the decision as "unfortunate" and said the restrictions put on Microsoft may have "unintended consequences".

Pate said: "Sound anti-trust policy must avoid chilling innovation and competition, even by 'dominant' companies," the Financial Times reports. He also questioned the size of the fine imposed on Microsoft.

Senate majority leader Bill Frist was no happier, described the decision as "preposterous", according to CNN. "I now fear that the US and the EU are heading toward a new trade war - and that the commission's ruling against Microsoft is the first shot," he said.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief lawyer, told the Seattle Times that the company is confident it can win a stay in court. This would stop any punishments until after an appeal is heard. That could take until 2009 - long after the release of Longhorn. ®

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