The long-running tale of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) against the European Union may come to an end this month. At least, that's the word from across the pond. According to remarks that European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes made to Reuters, Microsoft and the EU have agreed to agree on a deal by the end of May.

Of course, we've seen similar hopes before. In March of last year, the European Commission (EC) ordered Microsoft to pay a fine of nearly 500 million Euro, release a version of Windows without the Media Center software, and share other operating-system information with competitors. Since June, 2004, the firm has continued its squabble with the Europeans, while at the same time saying that it would abide by the ruling, or some version of it.

In the meantime, competitors like IBM (NYSE:IBM), Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), Nokia (NYSE:NOK), RealNetworks (NASDAQ:RNWK), and Red Hat (NASDAQ:RHAT) have officially joined the pile-on as "intervenors," under a variety of umbrella organizations, including, most recently, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems.

The devil, of course, is in the details. What needs to be shared? How will the licensing work? What do you call the thing? (Yet another recent blowup came when the EU refused to let Microsoft call it "Windows XP Reduced Media Edition." Yes, truth is one of the first things to go in the EU's banana republic.)

It may make no sense -- especially the Media Player charges, since Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes leads the market for legal tune downloads -- but Microsoft will be wise to put the cut-down product out and get this issue behind it. For stockholders concerned about the bottom line, nothing much will change. The cost of the fine has already been absorbed in last year's earnings.

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Seth Jayson finds European economic policy to be quite odd. At the time of publication, he had positions in no firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.