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Report: Microsoft trying to settle EC antitrust matters

Bloomberg reported on July 7 that Microsoft is attempting to come to a settlement with European antitrust officials over two antitrust matters pending in the European Union. Microsoft officials aren't commenting on the report. But it's definitely a believable one.

Bloomberg reported on July 7 that Microsoft is attempting to come to a settlement with European antitrust officials over two antitrust matters pending in the European Union.

Microsoft officials aren't commenting on the report. But it's definitely a believable one, given the potentially large fine and far-reaching "remedies" that the European Commission (EC) is believed to be preparing against the Redmond software maker.

The Bloomberg report claims Microsoft is trying to settle the case before EU Competition CommissionerNeelie Kroes steps down at the end of this year.

From the Bloomberg report:

"Any agreement would have to resolve a case over Microsoft’s Internet browser as well as a separate investigation into word processing and spreadsheet software, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are confidential."

The browser case mentioned is the Opera browser-tying case. EC regulators have issued prelimary findings in that matter which have indicated that they plan to come down hard on Microsoft for stifling competiting by tying Internet Explorer to Windows. Opera brought the suit against Microsoft in December 2007.

The EC had been asking hardware makers about one possible remedy -- offering users a "ballot screen" via which they'd select which browser they'd prefer to install when setting up a new Windows machine. IE would be one of a number of unspecified options. Microsoft officials have made it clear they are dead-set against a browser ballot and, instead, have announced intentions to offer one and only one version of Windows in Europe (Windows 7E) which would not include any browser or links to any.

The other antitrust matter that Microsoft reportedly is interested in settling involves its Office suite and how Microsoft has handled Open Document Format (ODF) compliance there. EC investigators indicated earlier this year they were studying that issue.

Would a settlement support Microsoft's Windows 7E proposal or scuttle it? Would it include a fine? No word so far on what's on the table....

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