Microsoft asks for oral hearing in latest EU antitrust case

The software giant submitted its written response to charges that it illegally favors Internet Explorer over rivals

Microsoft has asked the European Commission for an oral hearing with the regulator in order to defend itself against antitrust charges that it is illegally tying its Internet browser to the Windows operating system, a Commission spokesman said Wednesday.

The software giant made its request as it submitted a written response to the charges, which were issued in January. The hearing will take place in the coming weeks but no date has yet been set, Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said in a telephone interview.

Interested third parties will be invited to attend the hearing and make their points too. They include Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser; Google; as well as IBM, Oracle, Red Hat and other software firms represented by the trade group the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS).

These third parties are on the side of the Commission. Others including the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), a trade group representing small and medium-size IT firms, will support Microsoft.

"We are studying Microsoft's response carefully," Todd said, but declined to reveal any details in it.

The Commission accused Microsoft of distorting fair competition in the browser market by tying its Internet Explorer (IE) browser to Windows.

This, the regulator said, gives IE an advantage over rival browsers including Firefox, the Norwegian browser Opera and Google's own rival, called Chrome.

Opera sparked the antitrust probe by complaining to the Commission about Microsoft's tactics.

The case echoes a previous legal challenge to Microsoft in Europe. In 2004 the Commission ruled that tying Media Player, software that plays video and music tracks, into Windows was illegal for the same reason bundling IE is.

It ordered Microsoft to launch a second version of Windows that had the media player stripped out. However, this remedy is widely seen as being useless.

This time the Commission is considering forcing Microsoft to include rival browsers inside Windows. The idea would be to give users a genuine choice between browsers. This so-called 'must carry' remedy is broadly supported by the rival browser makers. However, some are worried about the precise wording.

"If the Commission isn't careful it could replace a harmful monopoly in the browser market with an equally harmful duopoly involving Google's Chrome and Microsoft's IE," said one person following the case closely, who asked not to be named.

For PCs installed on people's office computers, it sometimes won't be possible to give users a full choice because IT departments in firms often restrict employees' choices of software. The person explained that in such cases the Commission might ask computer makers to choose an alternative browser to IE.

"If this happened Google would be in a position to buy its way into Windows. There is no one else who could come close to its purchasing power," the person said.

"This would be great news for OEMs, but it would do little to restore fair competition to the market," he added.

After conducting the hearing the Commission will begin drafting its final ruling on the antitrust case. The antitrust officials will seek opinions on their ruling from other departments in the Commission, and then from the national competition regulators.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsofteuropean unionantitrust

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

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?