Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will meet the European Union's competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, next Wednesday to discuss a range of ongoing issues.

Kroes will meet Ballmer on Wednesday morning for a breakfast meeting at his request, Kroes' spokesman Jonathan Todd said Thursday.

They will discuss general competition issues, Todd said, but he declined to say whether this will include the company's compliance with the EU's May 2004 antitrust ruling against the company.

A Microsoft spokesman confirmed the meeting.

"We can confirm the meeting is taking place and is part of the regular dialogue between Microsoft and the Commission on competition and a wide range of other subjects," said Microsoft spokesman Tom Brookes.

Ballmer will also give a keynote speech on Tuesday to a group of senior EU politicians and officials, including the Commission's director-general for competition, Philip Lowe.

Microsoft fights for its rights

The Microsoft CEO met Kroes in April and discussed the case with her then. Kroes repeated the Commission's position that unless the company complied fully with the Commission's ruling, the Commission would take steps to impose a fine worth 5 per cent of the company's daily turnover. The Commission ruled in May 2004 that Microsoft should offer a version of Windows without its own-brand media player, and publish communications protocols for its workgroup server software.

While the Commission is understood to have accepted the company's proposal for the unbundled version of Windows, which will be called Windows XP N, it is insisting that rival companies who want to distribute products made using access to Microsoft's communications protocols should be able to do so under open source software licensing terms. Microsoft argues that this would damage its intellectual property rights.

Long road to justice

In June the Commission agreed to have this matter settled by the European Court of First Instance, which will rule on the company's appeal against the antitrust ruling.

In August the company filed a new appeal against the Commission to ensure that the court focused on the issue of the licensing terms. The court has not yet decided whether it will accept this new appeal or merge it with the previous one. In any case, the result of the case is not expected for two to three years.

The Commission is currently examining comments from rival companies and other industry players on the terms Microsoft offers for access to its communications protocols.