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Microsoft Reaches Settlements With Novell, Trade Association

By Steve Lohr and Paul Meller

The New York Times -- Microsoft announced Monday that it had reached a $536-million antitrust settlement with Novell and an agreement with a computer industry trade association that has long fought Microsoft on antitrust issues in the United States and Europe.

Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, hailed the agreements as the culmination of its 18-month, multi-billion dollar campaign to settle antitrust conflicts with its major antagonists in the industry, including Time Warner and Sun Microsystems.

These settlements suggest that the U.S. government and most of the computer industry have now moved beyond their decadelong pursuit of the company for antitrust violations. And that development, the company argues, should cause regulators in Europe, where Microsoft still faces a significant challenge, to rethink their approach.

“There is clearly less need for the European Commission to persist with litigation on behalf of competition when virtually all of the competitors are saying their issues have been resolved to their satisfaction,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel.

Microsoft, Smith added, has shown it can settle competitive issues in cooperation with others in the industry. “This sends a strong message that we and other companies in our industry do have the capacity now to sit down face-top-face and resolve the thorny antitrust issues that in the past were left instead to government to resolve,” he said. “We think that’s important in Europe as well as in the United States and elsewhere.”

The European Commission last March issued a harsh ruling against Microsoft in finding that it violated antitrust law and stifled competition. The commission ordered the company to divulge more technical information to competitors and to offer a version of its Windows operating system without its Media Player, the software for playing digital music or movies. The commission also fined the company 497 million euros ($641 million).