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Microsoft's Ballmer continues antitrust talks with European Commission

Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer is to continue talks with European competition commissioner Mario Monti on the...

Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer is to continue talks with European competition commissioner Mario Monti on the European antitrust case against the company.

Ballmer's involvement has sparked speculation that Microsoft is about to make its final effort to settle the five-year-long antitrust case. "It indicates that the issues have narrowed sufficiently to bring in the principal characters," one person said on condition of anonymity.

The commission's draft ruling remains secret. However, people close to both Microsoft and the European Commission said the commission found Microsoft guilty of abusing the dominant position of its Windows operating system by using it to muscle out rivals in related markets for media-playing software and software that runs servers. The ruling calls for Microsoft to offer PC manufacturers a version of Windows without Media Player, the video and audio playing software.

In addition imposing a fine, the European competition regulator is likely to demand that Microsoft reveal all the secret code in Windows needed by rivals to make software that interoperates properly with the operating system.

If no settlement is reached today, the commission is expected to make its negative ruling on 24 March.

Paul Meller writes for IDG News Service

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