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Barnstorming Ballmer breezes off to Belgium

Can't you just feel those ears popping?

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MS on Trial For reasons that entirely escape us, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is (was? frankly we haven't a clue about the lad's airmiles) now in Belgium, welcoming the news that DoJ bigwig Joel Klein is "prepared to engage in meaningful settlement negotiations."

The vast gulf that likely separates Klein's definition of meaningful from Microsoft's will likely make that a lot less positive than it sounds, but actually we're more interested in the bizarre route-map Steve is following. Oslo on Wednesday, the Netherlands on Thursday morning, the UK Thursday afternoon (pausing briefly to cancel seeing us), then over to Belgium again today.

Where next? We don't know, but we're roughing up a theory that Steve's strange, yelping public speaking style may in some way relate to his undergoing a minimum of four savage changes in air pressure every 24 hours.

Despite the fact that the British press haven't had a chance to get their hooks into him, a colleague who saw him in Oslo, Morten Solli of ComputerWorld Norway, helpfully tells us he managed to ask him the contingency plan question, and that Steve answered categorically that Microsoft does not have a contingency plan in the event of it not winning on appeal, because it's definitely sure it will win.

This reinforces similar categorical noises that came out of the Netherlands yesterday. But we still don't believe it; if Microsoft really has no plan, then it's betting on being able to stop practically all of the judge's ruling coming into effect during the appeals process. It's asked Judge Jackson for a stay already, og course, but it's surely not going to get one, so it'll need to get one from a higher court pronto. Otherwise NGWS is toast. Again. ®

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