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A European Union court on Monday rejected Microsoft's appeal of a European antitrust order requiring it to share software information with rivals and pay a record $689 million in fines for quashing competition.Consumer advocates and Microsoft officials said the ruling by the European Court of First Instance would have far-reaching implications for high-technology companies and other industries around the world. European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who led the effort to force Microsoft to share technology rather than obligate consumers to buy only Microsoft software, said the decision "set an important precedent in terms of the obligations of dominant companies to allow competition, in particular in high-tech industries."

Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith called the court ruling disappointing but added that the software giant is "committed to complying with every aspect" of the decision.

The Luxembourg-based court wrote that it agreed with EU regulators who said Microsoft has "abused its dominant position" in the global software marketplace by stifling competition and undercutting innovation efforts by rivals, thus keeping prices excessively high.

Although Smith said the Redmond, Wash., company has not decided whether to appeal the court decision, he appeared far more resigned and conciliatory toward European regulators than in the past when Microsoft accused them of trying to curb innovation by forcing the company to give up its technology secrets.

Smith said at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, which was carried on Microsoft's Web site, that the decision "very clearly gives the commission quite broad power and quite broad discretion." Although the EU commission's demands cannot be enforced outside Europe, Smith said the implications of the case will affect "our industry and every other industry in the world."


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