Microsoft Aiming to Settle EU Antitrust Cases

Microsoft is reportedly in talks with EU regulators over two separate antitrust cases, attempting to resolve the issues before the EU commissioner for competition steps down at the end of 2009. The first case deals with Internet Explorer, while the second centers on certain features of Microsoft Word and Excel. Microsoft had previously planned to release a separate edition of Windows 7 in Europe that excluded Internet Explorer 8 in order to avoid antitrust complaints.

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

The first of the two cases involves the inclusion of Internet Explorer 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 European Union has previously fined Microsoft 1.68 billion euros over antitrust matters.

Microsoft previously announced plans to release a European version of Windows 7 without Internet Explorer 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 United States on the launch date of Oct. 22 will be otherwise identical. European manufacturers preinstalling Windows 7 on customers' machines will be able to include Internet Explorer in the devices, meaning that EU users may never notice the issue.

For users not purchasing a new system, Microsoft will make Internet Explorer 8 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 browserless when their Vista copy of Internet Explorer is wiped out.

Neelie Kroes had previously met with Microsoft CEO 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.