The European Commission has appointed professor Neil Barrett, a British academic specialising in computer science and cybercrime, to oversee Microsoft's compliance with the antitrust ruling against the company.

European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes informed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer of the decision at a breakfast meeting in Brussels today.

Barrett is an expert in computer security and the Unix operating system. Barrett is also a visiting professor of computer crime at Cranfield and Glamorgan universities.

The Commission said that it had appointed Barrett as monitoring trustee to "provide technical advice to the Commission" on issues relating to Microsoft's compliance with the ruling. It said that the trustee must be independent of Microsoft, must possess the necessary qualifications to carry out the mandate and have the capacity to hire expert advisors to assist in carrying out tasks within the mandate.

While exclusive responsibility for ensuring that Microsoft complies with the ruling rests with the Commission, the trustee will provide impartial advice. The Commission gives the example of the request to Microsoft to publish its communications protocols to ensure interoperability with its workgroup servers. It says the trustee might be used to assess whether Microsoft's protocol disclosures are "complete and accurate" and whether the terms under which Microsoft makes the protocol specifications available are "reasonable and nondiscriminatory".

On the question of unbundling Windows Media Player from Windows, the Commission says the trustee might be asked to examine whether Microsoft has properly implemented the requirement to offer PC manufacturers a version of its Windows client PC operating system without the media player.

Dirk Delmartino, a Microsoft spokesman said: "We welcome the appointment of Neil Barrett as monitoring trustee and we look forward to working constructively with him to ensure our full compliance with the decision."

Ahead of the meeting a Commission spokesman said that the aim was to discuss "general competition issues".