EU Antitrust Chief: Microsoft Settlement Still Possible

Mario Monti says he's set a date for deciding the antitrust case, but that a settlement could be reached any time before then.
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union's antitrust chief said Monday that he has set a date for deciding the long-running case against Microsoft, but that a settlement remains possible.

"Until the moment that a decision is taken, nothing is impossible," EU Commissioner Mario Monti said after a European Parliament hearing.

Monti said he had set a date for the decision, but wouldn't make it public. He also declined to say whether he had informed Microsoft.

With a decision from the EU expected as early as mid-March, the U.S. software giant has been seeking to avert what could be a far-reaching order to change features in its dominant Windows desktop operating system and to reveal more of its underlying code to rival manufacturers.

Microsoft has said it is continuing to work with the European Commission toward an amicable settlement.

A draft decision against Microsoft that has been circulating in Brussels for the past month is expected to go to an advisory committee of national regulators around March 3, although there could be delay.

The committee is expected to convene again March 15 to review proposed penalties. Final decisions are usually adopted a day or two after that.

In the case, Microsoft is trying to avoid a feared order to unbundle from its Windows operating systems Media Player, a multimedia player that is gaining market share at the expense of rivals led by RealNetworks Inc.

Such an order could also complicate plans for Microsoft's next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. The future operating system is expected to incorporate an Internet search engine that would compete with Google Inc.

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