Microsoft Alters Browser Ballot As EU Settlement Looms

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Quoting two unnamed sources close to the discussions, Bloomberg said Microsoft's move comes in response to complaints from Opera, Google, and Mozilla, all of which weren't happy with Microsoft's previous proposal to list competing browsers alphabetically. Microsoft will also provide the so-called ballot screen in a Web page format that runs outside of IE, according to the report.

The EU in January charged Microsoft with violating European competition law by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, and Microsoft in July proposed a compromise in which new Windows 7 PCs would present customers with a ballot screen that includes IE as well as competing browsers.

The wrangling has intensified in recent months due to hair splitting over the ballot screen proposal, but Bloomberg's sources said Microsoft's latest concession could lead to a settlement in the EU case as soon as Dec. 15.

European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has made it clear she wants a settlement in the case before leaving her post at the end of the year. The EU, which has levied more than $2.5 billion in fines against Microsoft to date, is also holding up regulatory approval of Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems while it conducts its own review.

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