Microsoft-E.U. antitrust settlement hopes dim

Hopes of a last-minute settlement of Microsoft Corp.’s antitrust case in Europe dimmed Wednesday, after a morning meeting between competition commissioner Mario Monti and Steve Ballmer, the company’s chief executive, broke up early without any apparent meeting of minds, said people close to the talks.

Monti is demanding even tougher remedies from Microsoft in return for a settlement that averts a precedent-setting negative ruling in a week, the people said.

Monti’s meeting with Ballmer was brief, one person said. It followed a four hour meeting with Microsoft’s chief lawyer Brad Smith Tuesday afternoon. The person added that another face-to-face meeting between Monti and Ballmer is “unlikely”.

If no settlement is reached between now and next Wednesday, the European Commission is scheduled to adopt a negative ruling forcing Microsoft to offer two versions of its Windows operating system in Europe: one with Microsoft’s music and video software, Media Player, stripped out of the operating system and sold separately.

The ruling will also order Microsoft to license more secret code in Windows to allow rivals to build software that works smoothly with Windows, and it will fine Microsoft between

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