Microsoft in EU antitrust talks

Microsoft is holding preliminary talks with the EU to resolve investigations into the market position of Word and Excel after receiving complaints that the software giant doesn’t provide adequate formatting information to allow rival products to work alongside Office applications.

The company cancelled meetings last month over Internet Explorer’s dominant position, claiming that the ‘right people’ hadn’t been invited to attend. Now the company is keen to get things moving on the browser, word processing and spreadsheet front before EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes leaves office, EU sources told Bloomberg.

Microsoft has been fined $2.34 billion so far in EU antitrust rulings and wants to resolve the Word and Excel issues before the EU imposes sanctions, add the anonymous EU sources. Kroes leaves her post at the end of the year and has said she wants to resolve the Microsoft issues before she departs.

Any settlement would involve both the browser and Office applications issues, which date back to 2008. Google and Mozilla were invited to submit arguments in the browser bundling case, but it is not clear if any rival companies have been asked to sit in on the Office negotiations.

The EU had wanted Microsoft to offer a menu screen in Windows 7 offering users a choice of browser, but the company foiled the plan by announcing a Win 7E SKU for the European market with the browser removed, making it somewhat difficult for the EU to insist on rival products shipping with the OS when it launches in the Fall.

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