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EC Wants IE Browser Ripped Out of Windows

The EC’s decision is a response to the complaint that Opera lodged about a year ago

The European Commission has sent Microsoft another Statement of Objections (SO) this time accusing the company of the antitrust crime of tying the Internet Explorer browser to its Windows operating system.

The Microsoft-obsessed regulator says the tie is abuse of Windows’ dominance.

It’s given Microsoft eight weeks to answer the SO, remarking rather offhandedly – like it’s going to make any difference – that the company has “the right to be heard in an oral hearing should it wish to do so” and warning that – if Microsoft loses – well, then “the Commission may impose a fine on Microsoft, require Microsoft to cease the abuse and impose a remedy that would restore genuine consumer choice and enable competition on the merits.”

The Commission has already leveled over $2 billion in fines on Microsoft, more than any other company, treating it like its personal sugar daddy.

In a statement the EC said that it had concluded – preliminarily at least for form’s sake – that “Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”

It also said – pretty much dooming Microsoft’s chances – that its decision was a logical extension of the original antitrust case it brought against the company – the one that was upheld by the Court of First Instance in September of 2007 – finding that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the PC operating system market by tying Windows Media Player to Windows.

Expanding on its opinion, the EC claims tying the browser to the operating system “distorts competition on the merits”…because it “provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match” and “shields Internet Explorer from head-to-head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain.;

The EC also feels that “the ubiquity of Internet Explorer creates artificial incentives for content providers and software developers to design web sites or software primarily for Internet Explorer which ultimately risks undermining competition and innovation in the provision of services to consumers.”

The EC’s decision is a response to the complaint that Opera lodged about a year ago, grumbling that Microsoft didn’t follow accepted web standards and forced web pages to be written its way, distorting the results of other browsers.

IE 8, the next iteration of the browser, is supposed to adhere to standards.

In a statement of its own, Microsoft, which said it is “studying” the SO, noted that the EC indictment “states that the remedies put in place by the US court in 2002 following antitrust proceedings in Washington, DC do not make the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows lawful under European Union law.”

In 2004 the EC, which interprets antitrust laws in favor of competitors rather than competition as the US generally does, ordered Microsoft to offer OEMs a version of Windows without the Media Player. The widgetry got no takers.

XiTi Monitor says only ~60% of Europe now uses IE, the lowest level ever; ~31% Firefox and ~5% Opera. Google’s Chrome may be a comer. Opera barely has a heartbeat in the states while Firefox’ growth in Europe is being stymied by Opera and Chrome.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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