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Microsoft boots PlayStation 2 from CeBit

Sony had to pack up its game consoles early after the software giant complained that it was breaking the rules by letting show-goers play with them.

Less than a week after Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told visitors at the massive CeBit exhibition in Hannover, Germany, that he wanted to see a warmer, friendlier Microsoft, his company has become embroiled in a row with Sony over gaming consoles.

Microsoft complained to the show organizers, Hannover Messe AG, that Sony was breaching show rules by letting people play on Sony PlayStation 2 consoles. Technically, Microsoft was right, and the Messe was forced to act on the complaint.

Sony approached Microsoft to find a compromise and entered into protracted discussions with the Messe for a deal acceptable for all parties. But none could be found, and on Sunday morning Sony started packing up its 27 PS2s. The CeBit show officially finishes on Wednesday.

Microsoft representatives denied that the company had complained to the Messe. But the show organizers confirmed that Richard Roy, vice president, corporate strategy, had complained.

Sony has shown PlayStation consoles for the past three years without any problem, and the Messe said it would not have worried about the situation if Microsoft had not complained.

Microsoft showed its Xbox game console on its stand at the show, with employees demonstrating.

Steve Homer is a special correspondent to ZDNet U.K. in London. Bernd Steinbrink of CeBit News contributed to this report.