Europe charges Microsoft with abuse of monopoly again

The European Commission has formally charged Microsoft with monopoly abuse over the way it bundles its Internet Explorer browser with Windows

Microsoft was formally charged with monopoly abuse by Europe's top antitrust authority, the European Commission, over the way it bundles the Internet Explorer browser with Windows.

The move follows an unsuccessful attempt by U.S. authorities nine years ago to strip Internet Explorer (IE) of its unfair advantage over competing browsers. European authorities were more successful in their prosecution of Microsoft over similar antitrust offenses five years ago, fining the company over EUR1.6 billion and ordering it to change the way it does business.

The Commission's charges were delivered to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, last Thursday in the form of a formal statement of objections. The company is studying the charges and will respond within the next two months, as is usual in European antitrust cases, it said.

The new charges are the first of many anticipated against the company in the wake of a failed court appeal by Microsoft last year against the original European antitrust ruling.

The latest statement of objections follows a relatively short investigation, one year long, sparked by a complaint from Opera Software, a Norwegian browser developer.

Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner welcomed the Commission's decision to press charges. "It's clear they are taking this very seriously," he said in a phone interview on Saturday.

However, he still doesn't know if the Commission pursued both aspects of his company's complaint against Microsoft: In addition to complaining about the bundling of IE into Windows, Opera also pointed out that the software giant was undermining open software standards on the Internet.

"Its a problem for companies like ours if Microsoft doesn't support the open standards we all apply, because many Web sites are designed to work with IE, which means our browsers won't always work out of the box," he said.

IE is still the most widely used internet browser, although its market share dipped below 70 percent globally in 2008, according to Web analytics company Net Applications. In December, Opera's share was around 0.71 percent.

Von Tetzchner said he hopes the Commission doesn't apply the same remedy it did in its last ruling, when it ordered Microsoft to offer a second version of Windows alongside the regular version of the software, but without a bundled copy of Windows Media Player .

Microsoft complied with the ruling but no one bought the unbundled version, which was sold for the same price as the version with Windows Media Player included.

"That's not really what we are looking for as a remedy for the bundling of IE," von Tetzchner said, adding: "The only way to give users a genuine choice is to strip out IE from Windows and either replace it with a rival browser or offer users a list of browsers to choose from."

The latest antitrust charges against Microsoft almost certainly won't be the last.

At the same time it opened the investigation into the bundling of IE, the Commission also opened a separate probe to see whether Microsoft withholds information from companies that want to make products compatible with its Microsoft Office productivity suite.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags antitrusteuropean union

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Meller

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?