A new EU competition case looms for Microsoft

The European Commission will examine under its antitrust regulation the link created by Microsoft between its browser Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system, following a complaint filed by Opera, a Norwegian software company.

Last October, Microsoft agreed to offer a version of Windows without Media Player, one of the pieces of software tied to its operating system (EURACTIV 23/10/07). This practice was considered unfair by its competitors and EU antitrust authorities (EURACTIV 17/09/07).

Now Opera, a software company which provides a series of small devices with a connection to the Web, is asking the Commission to deal with Internet Explorer as it did with Media Player.

“The European Court of First Instance confirmed in September that Microsoft has illegally tied Windows Media Player to Windows. We are simply asking the Commission to apply these same, clear principles to the Internet Explorer tie, a tie that has even more profound effects on consumers and innovation”, Jason Hoida, Opera deputy General Counsel, said in a press release. 

The complaint issued by Opera was immediately supported by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), of which Opera is a member together with other ICT software and hardware providers such as Adobe, IBM, Corel, Nokia, Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

“By tying its Internet Explorer product to its monopoly Windows operating system and refusing to faithfully implement industry-accepted open standards, Microsoft deprives consumers of a real choice in internet browsers”, Thomas Vinje, ECIS spokesman and Legal Counsel, said in a press release.

“It is early to make any intelligent comment on this case. We have seen the complaint and we are going to study it carefully”, Jonathan Todd, spokesperson for Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, said yesterday during the daily Commission press briefing. Microsoft officials declined to comment the case.

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