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EU suspends Microsoft sanctions

Order requiring Microsoft to sell Windows without media player software gets put on hold.

The European Commission has temporarily suspended an order requiring Microsoft to begin to offer a version of Windows without a media player this week.

Microsoft said it been notified on Sunday of the Commission's decision, which effectively gives a Luxembourg court time to sort out the case without feeling pressure to reach an immediate decision.

The announcement quickly followed Microsoft's request to Court of First Instance asking for an emergency stay of the media player requirement. A temporary suspension of the media player requirement while the case continues was "expected either by the Commission or the court," Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said Sunday.

Microsoft has filed a 100-page appeal before asking the court to annul the European Commission's $604 million fine (497 million Euros) and media player requirement. Desler said the request for an emergency stay filed late Friday, which buttresses the appeal, is confidential.

"The remedies will not only hurt Microsoft, they will hurt many other software development companies and Web site developers who have built products for the Windows platform," Microsoft said in a statement. "Most importantly, they will also harm consumers by limiting choice and degrading the usability of personal computers."

The Court of First Instance, Europe's second-highest judicial body, is expected to hold a hearing on Microsoft's request within the next two months.

If the order had not been suspended, some of the European Commission's deadlines would have begun to take effect. The Commission's March 24 decision gave Microsoft 90 days to offer an operating system without the media player included and 120 days to begin sharing proprietary information with its competitors regarding its server software.

The U.S. Justice Department has criticized the European crackdown on Microsoft, saying that its own investigation has led to "substantial changes to Microsoft?s business practices" and yanking the Windows Media Player was unjustified and could be harmful. In addition, prominent Democratic and Republican politicians have slammed the prosecution on the other side of the Atlantic as violating a 1991 antitrust cooperation agreement.