European Union (EU) Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said this morning that settlement talks between the EU and Microsoft have broken down, and he will now present his draft ruling against the software giant next week as scheduled. Earlier this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made an emergency trip to Brussels, Belgium, to try to secure a settlement with the EU, which will charge the company with antitrust abuses and levy conduct controls and a fine.
"I'd just like to inform you that a settlement to the Microsoft case has not been possible," Monti said. "We made substantial progress toward resolving the problems that had arisen in the past, but we were unable to agree on commitments for future conduct. In the end I had to decide what was best for competition and consumers in Europe. \[They\] will be better served with a decision that creates a strong precedent. It is essential to have a precedent that will set clear principles for the future conduct of a company with such a strong dominant position in the market."
As reported yesterday in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, Monti would have agreed to a settlement only if Microsoft agreed to terms that went beyond the punishments the EU will issue next week, and the company obviously balked at that possibility. Monti praised the Microsoft settlement-negotiation team's "constructive and cooperative spirit" and "high degree of professionalism," however.
The EU will issue its verdict on March 24. Observers expect the EU to fine Microsoft $150 million to $250 million, require the company to ship a version of Windows that doesn't include Windows Media Player (WMP), and give competitors more technical information about its server products.