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Microsoft Aiming to Settle EU Antitrust Cases

Microsoft is reportedly in talks to resolve two separate antitrust cases with EU regulators before the EU commissioner for competition steps down

Microsoft is apparently in talks to settle antitrust probes initiated by the European Union (EU), according to Bloomberg, which cited unnamed people “familiar with the negotiations”.

The first of the two cases involves the inclusion of Internet Explorer (IE) within Windows; the second deals with the ability of Microsoft Word and Excel to successfully interact with other applications. Microsoft is apparently trying to settle both under EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes before she steps down from office at the end of 2009.

Microsoft declined to comment about the matter. The EU has previously fined the software giant 1.68 billion euros (£1.45 billion) over antitrust matters.

Microsoft previously announced plans to release a European version of Windows 7 without IE 8, called Windows 7 E, in order to appease EU regulators who argue that including the browser would violate antitrust laws.

The versions of Windows 7 that Microsoft will offer in Europe and the US on the 22 October launch date will be otherwise identical. European manufacturers pre-installing Windows 7 on customers’ machines will be able to include Windows 7 E in the devices, meaning that EU users may never notice the issue.

For users not purchasing a new system, Microsoft will make Windows 7 E available on a CD-ROM. However, users upgrading from Windows 7 E to Windows Vista could have a problem, as changing over from one operating system to another could leave them browser-less when their Vista IE copy is wiped out.

Neelie Kroes had previously met with Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer as far back as 2005 to wrestle out regulatory issues. The European Commission has complained on multiple occasions that Microsoft has not fully complied with antitrust statutes; while many of those issues concerning compliance have been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties, the current Microsoft talks make it clear that sticking points remain.