A year ago: Microsoft moves to square European Commission

Peace in our time, EU commissioners allege

While the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has been noisily mounting what increasingly looks like a crusade against Microsoft, the European Commission has been quietly padding around in the background, running various low-key antitrust investigations that may or may not come to something. One of these, into Microsoft's relationship with European ISPs, now seems on the point of being quietly buried, following a Microsoft decision to revise contracts. The previous contract required that the ISPs offer Internet Explorer as their preferred browser in return for being listed as a provider in the 95 operating system ,but this is now being dropped. The change is being presented by Microsoft as routine, but it has the key advantage of removing a possible clear legal peg for the Commission to hang a bust on. What it doesn't do, of course, is alter the overall policy of establishing cosy relationships with ISPs - check the preferred Microsoft download sites for, say, the beta of Outlook 98 and you'll get a good indicator of who Microsoft's European buddies are. There are various other European enquiries under way, but the latest Microsoft move suggests the company is likely to neuter the more dangerous-looking ones by switching away from the stick to the carrot in its relations with its business partners. Just like everybody else, in fact. NetScape meanwhile has scored some small consolation, from a million licence deal with French ISP Jet Multimedia. Jet is to distribute one million NetScape Navigator 4.0 CDs as part of its France Explorer programme, and is the first big NetScape score following the decision to distribute Navigator free. But there's a long way to go in France, as AOL and the France Telecom service, Wanadoo, use Explorer as their default browser, and France Explorer only has 200,000 subscribers so far. ®

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