Microsoft and Lenovo have forged a partnership for the latter to preload Windows Live software onto its machines. The move is a cunning one by Microsoft, since the agreement would appear to circumvent any potential or existing antitrust rulings against the company.

Lenovo is to be the first system builder "to provide its customers worldwide with immediate access to the Microsoft Live.com portal and Windows Live Toolbar " - though other partners are sure to follow.

The software giant has been chided and severely fined on several occasions for bundling applications such as MSN Messenger and Windows Media Player with copies of Windows.

The EU has been particularly hard on the corporation, with a 280.5 million euro (£189 million) fine imposed last October for non-compliance with its landmark antitrust decision of March 2004. The initial ruling itself came with a 497 million euro fine, and Microsoft was offered to produce a reduced functionality version of Windows without Windows Media Player.

Understandably, the corporation is keen to focus on the customer benefits of the partnership, as is Lenovo. "Live Search and Microsoft's other Windows Live services help our customers work more effectively," said Steve Petracca of Lenovo's software unit.

"Lenovo will use these services to further strengthen its relationships with customers worldwide by delivering useful PC updates, tools and information through a new portal."

"Building strong partnerships is a key element of the Windows Live strategy," said Steve Berkowitz, head of the Online Services Group at Microsoft.

Windows Live, referred to as "a new set of personal internet services and software", is a re-branding of many of Microsoft's core services formerly under the MSN umbrella. Microsoft is, however, maintaining the recognisable MSN brand.