Ballmer meets EU competition chief

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is discussing the European antitrust case against the company with Mario Monti, the European competition commissioner in Brussels, a person close to the talks said Tuesday afternoon.

"They are talking, the meeting has not finished," the person said.

Ballmer's involvement has sparked speculation that Microsoft is about to make its final effort to settle the five-year-long antitrust case.

In a draft ruling, the European Commission found Microsoft guilty of abusing the dominant position of its Windows operating system by using the software to muscle out rivals in related markets for media playing software and software that runs servers, according to sources close to the case.

In addition to a fine, the European competition regulator is expected to order Microsoft to offer a version of Windows with its Media Player software stripped out. It is also likely to demand that Microsoft reveal all the Windows' secret code that is needed by rivals to make software that interoperates properly with the ubiquitous operating system.

If no settlement is reached, the Commission is expected to make its negative ruling on March 24.

Microsoft and European Union (EU) officials Tuesday declined to comment on Ballmer's talk with Monti. The Commission is the EU's executive body.

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