In a surprise move, Microsoft has waived its right to an oral hearing in the European Commission's (EC) antitrust inquiry.
The formal hearing, scheduled for 20-21 December, has been cancelled. The US computer giant has four firms fighting its corner in the antitrust investigation. Sullivan & Cromwell is leading, with Linklaters, Covington & Burling and Van Bael & Bellis giving additional advice. Microsoft's associate general counsel John Frank announced that Microsoft is also seeking a meeting with the EC to discuss an amicable resolution. The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), an intervener in the case, claims that Microsoft had little to gain from an oral hearing. Ed Black, the president of the CCIA, said: "A public hearing - with industry experts prepared to refute Microsoft's proffered claims and explanations - would be a colossal mistake for Microsoft." Microsoft probably wanted to avoid bad publicity, but the decision to drop the formal hearing suggests that it feels it can settle the EU case. Having negotiated a favourable settlement with the US federal government, Microsoft now wants a speedy resolution with the EU. Interveners in the case can also request an oral hearing. Thomas Vinje of Morrison & Foerster represents the CCIA. He said that a request for a hearing is still "under consideration" by his client. However, the interveners have good commercial reasons not to request a hearing. A request would delay a final decision and the interveners want whatever remedies the EC comes up with to be extended to Microsoft's recently released Windows XP.