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Microsoft will hear tomorrow whether or not it has been successful in the first stage of its appeal against that antitrust sanctions imposed upon it by the European Competition Commission.

Back in March, the Commission ruled that Microsoft had abused its monopoly. It imposed a fine of almost $650m, and instructed the company to publish details of its Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. Microsoft wants these penalties suspended while it makes its appeal.

Microsoft's detractors, including the Commission, argue that if the sanctions are suspended, the damage will have been done to MS' competitors in whatever time the appeal process takes to complete. In effect, Microsoft will have won, even if it goes on to lose its appeal.

Judge Bo Vesterdorf, president of the Court of First Instance, Europe's second highest court, is expected to announce his decision tomorrow (Wednesday). The phrasing of his report will be finely dissected, whichever way he rules, as any implied criticism of the Commission's ruling could lend credence to Microsoft's appeal.

To rule in Microsoft's favour, Vesterdorf must decide that the company has an "urgent need for suspension" and that its interests outweigh those of the public.

Carlos Piana, a lawyer representing the Free Software Foundation in the case against Microsoft, said" "Every day that passes makes it harder for the market to benefit from the commission's decision," Business Week reports. ®

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