The European Commission said today it is closing its investigation into Microsoft's influence on the digital cable operator market in Europe, after the company agreed to scrap its technology advice panels.

The investigation aimed to ensure that the technology decisions of cable operators are made on merit and that suppliers of TV set-top boxes can compete with Microsoft on equal terms. The EC said Microsoft's strategic allies have also agreed to abolish or change their panels, called technology boards.

The EC was particularly concerned about Microsoft's activities in the European cable television market. The software giant had already agreed to reduce its joint controlling position in UK cable firm Telewest to a minority interest.

After examining the Microsoft-Telewest case, the EC decided to probe deeper into Microsoft's strategic investments in Europe, including its participation in leading European broadband and cable operators such as Dutch firm UPC and NTL in the UK.

In the cases of UPC and NTL, Microsoft's investment was accompanied by the creation of a joint technology board that made binding recommendations as to the technology decisions of the cable company.

In response to EC concerns Microsoft agreed to abolish one of the technology boards and to turn the other into an industry technology forum open to competing suppliers of set-top box technology.