Pacific Northwest European Union (EU) antitrust regulators said they're in "intense" discussions with Microsoft to ensure the company complies...

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Microsoft


European Union (EU) antitrust regulators said they’re in “intense” discussions with Microsoft to ensure the company complies with an EU order.


The European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, last year ordered Microsoft to license some information to competitors, sell a version of its Windows operating system without a media player and pay a record fine of $639 million.


The commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, is working with Microsoft on the implementation of the March 2004 antitrust order, said Philip Lowe, director general of the commission’s competition department. All parts of the decision are being discussed, with the “most important” being how Microsoft will ensure its software works with products made by rivals, he said in Luxembourg yesterday.


Microsoft is appealing the EU order.


Sterling Financial



S&L seeks to convert to commercial bank

Sterling Financial of Spokane is planning to file applications with bank regulators to convert Sterling Savings Bank from a state-chartered savings and loan to a state-chartered commercial bank, and to convert Sterling Financial into a bank holding company.


The switch to a commercial-bank charter would culminate a transformation begun several years ago away from thrift products — typically, mortgage loans — to a commercial-bank portfolio.


Sterling officials think the investment community assigns a higher market premium to commercial banks.


Agriculture



Cherry harvest could set record

Cherry growers in the Pacific Northwest could harvest about 12 million boxes of fruit this year, according to early estimates provided by the Washington State Fruit Commission.


Such a harvest would top the record harvest of 11.3 million 20-pound boxes in 2003. However, the early estimate could fall as a result of crop damage from frost, wind or rain, said B.J. Thurlby, commission president.


Last year, growers harvested 11.1 million boxes.


About 80 percent of the crop comes from Washington, with the rest from Oregon, Utah and Idaho.


The commission will make three more estimates of the cherry harvest every two weeks.


Garden Botanika



Body-care firm adds to retail outlets

Garden Botanika of Redmond inked deals with Dillard’s and Macy’s Northwest last month to carry its natural body-care products.


The products will be carried in 13 Macy’s Northwest stores, including Seattle and Bellevue, 66 Dillard’s stores and 28 Pendleton Woolen Mills by July.


Garden Botanika filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1999 and was sold for $2 million two years later to Schroeder & Tremayne, a St. Louis manufacturer, distributor and marketer of bath-and-body products.


In 2003, the company re-entered the retail market with counters at local Nordstroms, and its products are sold at 125 retailers nationwide.


Compiled from Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press and Bloomberg News