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Microsoft claims breakthrough in Brussels

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Microsoft claimed a breakthrough at its meeting with European Commission last week. But then again, as any student of European history knows, "breakthroughs" in the Low Countries are all relative.

Brad Smith left Friday’s meeting on the EC’s 2004 anti-trust ruling against Microsoft claiming the firm had been encouraged by EC trustee Neil Barrett’s “plan to move forward”, according to the New York Times. Microsoft has bemoaned a lack of guidance from the EC on how to comply with the ruling, and said discussions with Barret “answers some of the questions that have had for some time”.

Great news.

Except the EC had a slightly different view, with a commission spokesman pointing out that Barrett is “an advisor" and he "doesn’t make plans”.

Just to be on the safe side, Microsoft called on Uncle Sam to step in, with Washington warning, sorry, requesting the EC be “fair on the company”. The NYT said the US had drafted a memo echoing Microsoft’s complaints about the EC’s approach to the case. Just to reinforce things, officials had visited senior commission figures last week, the paper said.

There's plenty at stake. If Microsoft can't convince the commission it is complying with the 2004 ruling, it could be hit with daily fines of €2m. Will this make a difference? We'll have to wait a few weeks to find out. ®

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