EC to decide Microsoft's fate by mid-July

Regulators have a deadline of July 19 to rule on imposing stiff daily fines on the software powerhouse.

The European Commission may take until the middle of July to decide whether to impose on Microsoft a daily fine of 2 million euros, about $2.6 million.

Europe's commissioners will meet for the last time sometime before the summer break on July 19. A commission representative told journalists Tuesday that this was the latest date on which a decision could be taken on the fine, which follows a landmark 2004 antitrust ruling.

Commission sources later confirmed that a decision could be taken earlier and denied that July 19 was inked in as D-Day for the Commission's ongoing battle with the software giant. "We've always been saying that we'll make a decision before the summer," one insider said.

In 2004, the Commission ruled that Microsoft had failed to allow rivals to compete fairly in the server software market and had stifled competition by bundling its Media Player with Windows.

Microsoft has since launched a version of its operating system without Media Player and released server interoperability protocols for license--although this has failed to impress some critics.

At an appeal held in April, Microsoft argued that it should not be fined, claiming it has complied with the 2004 ruling.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNET UK reported from London.

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