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MICROSOFT WILL meet the US Department of Justice (DOJ) tomorrow for negotiations aimed at settling the anti-trust case brought against it by the DOJ and 19 states, the New Mexico Attorney General, Patricia Madrid, said last week.

The company has said it would relax the restrictions on the licences it gives computer makers to install Windows. The company also said it would consider easing exclusive marketing contracts it has with Internet companies and others. Some state officials said these concessions were inadequate.

Microsoft boss Bill Gates said he was willing to settle anti-trust charges if Microsoft can preserve the right to add new features to Windows. "As long as we can keep those intact, we want to settle," he said.

A REPORT last week from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said there was a decline in sales of music CDs among 15- to 24- year-olds, traditionally the mainstay of the industry. Describing the 4.2 per cent fall over two years as "puzzling", the report added: "The rise of the Internet as a free entertainment centre, and the availability of free MP3 music files, could be contributing factors."

It is a line the RIAA constantly takes, although Mark Hardie, senior analyst at Forrester Research, told News.com that to blame MP3 for declining sales is naive. "The fact that teens use computers more on a daily basis is impacting all other forms of entertainment," he said. "MP3 is having a negligible impact on industry music sales. The industry needs to start developing business models around digital entertainment delivery."

APPLE'S INTERIM chief executive, Steve Jobs, has confirmed that the company has talked to 3Com about buying its Palm Computing division, fuelling speculation that, while Apple might not develop a handheld computer, it might sell one under the Apple brand.

Apple said that next month it will start to target the small business market in an effort to increase sales beyond the graphics market.

MICROSOFT RELEASED details last week about Internet Explorer 5 downloads over the Net. Claiming a new record, Microsoft said that one million copies were downloaded in the five days after IE5's launch - triple the number of downloads at the launch of IE4 in 1997.

However, at the time of the earlier launch, Microsoft claimed more than one million downloads in only two days. Mike Nichols, Microsoft product manager, said that the figure for 1997 was arrived at by counting downloads of the small program "Active Setup", which is necessary to initiate a full download. But, he said, not everyone had gone on to complete that full download.

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