In the wake of recent settlement deals in Microsoft antitrust cases in the USA, European Commissioner for Competition Issues Mario Monti confirmed yesterday that the software firm is due to defend itself against European anticompetition charges at a hearing slated for 20 and 21 December.

"The Commission will then examine all arguments," Monti said during a press conference.

Microsoft submitted its written response to the new enlarged antitrust case last Friday. Monti said his anticompetition officials are examining the reply.

Monti reiterated that the European lawsuit is distinct from the case in the USA, but conceded there are also similarities.

Microsoft is fighting accusations that it may have violated European anticompetition rules by using illegal practices to extend its dominant position in the market for personal computer operating systems into the market for low-end server operating systems.

In lay terms this is akin to being stopped by police for speeding and being asked who the naughty boy is. It certainly isn't the EC.

Low-end server systems, in the case, are defined as cheaper servers usually used as file and print servers as well as web servers, the EC said.

This case is the result of two separate anticompetition investigations into the software giant. The first case was sparked by a complaint by Sun in 1998, which alleged that Microsoft was using its Windows operating system software to muscle rivals out of the market for server software.

In February 2000 the EC launched a separate investigation on its own initiative to see if Microsoft was doing the same thing with the latest version of its OS at the time — Windows 2000.

As with the first case, the Commission believes that Microsoft may have withheld from vendors of alternative server software the key interoperability information they need in order to allow their products to communicate with Microsoft's dominant PC and server software products.