The date that Microsoft will find out if it has to reform its business practices in Europe has been set - Xmas.

The European Union judge deciding the matter has said he will come to his decision before the holidays, and also announced that he will continue to take into account arguments made by Novell and the CCIA, despite them reaching out-of-court settlements with Microsoft earlier this month.

JThe developments came at a meeting in Luxembourg today between Microsoft lawyers, the complainants and Commission representatives. At the meeting, which lasted less than half an hour, Judge Bo Vesterdorf asked the parties whether they felt that evidence submitted by Novell and the CCIA should be struck from the record.

"All parties in the meeting agreed, as Microsoft has always maintained, that Novell and CCIA's past filings should remain on the record," the Microsoft spokesman said after the meeting. “Our settlements with Novell and CCIA are focused on our relations with the industry going forward. We look forward to the judge’s decision and, more importantly, to progressing the broader appeal," he said.

A court official confirmed that arguments and documents submitted by Novell and the CCIA would remain in the case file and not be retracted. A spokesman for the Commission reiterated its position that despite the departure of the two parties, the facts of the case remain unchanged.

Following the settlements with Novell and CCIA, Real Networks is now the only company actively backing the Commission’s case against Microsoft.

Judge Vesterdorf indicated that he would reveal by 18 or 20 December whether he will suspend the measures demanded by the Commission in March, pending the outcome of a wider appeal by Microsoft.

In its decision, the Commission ordered the company to offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player, to publish APIs that let companies make products that work well with its server software, and to pay a fine of 497 million euros.