European Commissioner for Competition Issues Mario Monti has confirmed that Microsoft will defend itself against European antitrust charges at a hearing slated for December 20 and 21.

This news follows the recent settlement deals in antitrust cases in the US. Monti said during a press conference: "The Commission will examine all arguments." Microsoft submitted its written response to the new enlarged antitrust case last Friday.

Monti reiterated that the European lawsuit is distinct from the case in the US, but conceded there are similarities. Microsoft is fighting accusations that it may have violated European antitrust 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.

Case in point In the case, low-end server systems are defined as file-&-print servers, as well as Web servers, the Commission said.

This case is the result of two separate antitrust investigations into the software giant. The first case was sparked by a complaint by Sun Microsystems 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 Commission launched a separate investigation 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.