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EU accuses Microsoft of illegally tying IE to Windows

The European Union, in a “preliminary” view on a complaint by Opera, said it believes that the company “distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers” by bundling IE with every copy of Windows. (see The Guardian, Slashdot).

I’m an Opera employee and there I’m not allowed to comment on this. Here’s the Opera press release about it (a glitch in the matrix has prevented us publishing it on the official website).

European Commission accuses Microsoft of illegally tying Internet Explorer to Windows

Oslo, Norway and Brussels, Belgium — 16 January 2009 – Following its investigation of Opera Software ASA’s antitrust complaint, the European Commission confirmed today that it sent Microsoft a Statement of Objections yesterday, accusing it of illegally tying Internet Explorer to the Windows PC operating system.

Opera’s complaint filed in December of 2007 described how Microsoft has been abusing its dominant position in PC operating systems and preventing competition on the merits for internet browsers in favor of its own Internet Explorer. Opera requested the Commission to take the necessary actions to compel Microsoft to allow consumers a real choice of browser.

“On behalf of all Internet users, we commend the Commission for taking the next step towards restoring competition in a market that Microsoft has strangled for more than a decade. The Commission’s Statement of Objections demonstrates that the Commission is serious about getting Microsoft to start competing on the merits in the browser market and letting consumers have a real choice of internet browsers,” says Jon von Tetzchner, Chief Executive Officer, Opera Software.

The Statement of Objections comes almost a year and half after the judgment of the European Court of First Instance confirming the European Commission’s 2004 Decision that Microsoft had illegally tied Windows Media Player to Windows.

“The Court of First Instance’s judgment was clear that Microsoft illegally tied Media Player to Windows. We are not surprised that the Commission has issued a Statement of Objections based on the principles in that judgment. We are confident that the Commission will ultimately conclude that Microsoft has violated European competition law again and that it will take all necessary actions to restore competition and consumer choice in this important market,” says Jason Hoida, Deputy General Counsel, Opera Software.

The Commission’s action has not come a moment too soon as the internet browser, now more than ever, is the most important application on the PC.

“The browser is the consumer’s gateway to the Internet and a critical platform for application development itself. Today the Commission has confirmed that it will do what it can to make sure consumers are able to continue to freely enjoy one of the most important innovations in the history of humanity: the Internet,” says von Tetzchner.

About Opera Software ASA

Opera Software ASA is a Norwegian company providing innovative products that make the Web a reality on any device — from computers and cell phones to portable media players and game consoles. As the first company that brought the full Web to the small mobile screen, Opera has an unparalleled track record in giving users the full Web experience across platforms.

Opera’s product range includes its flagship desktop browser, a fast and free Web browser for mobile phones called Opera Mini, and Opera Mobile, a version of the browser designed for today’s advanced smartphones. All Opera’s products support open Web standards which make the Web a home for innovation. Available completely free, Opera’s desktop browser or Opera Mini can be downloaded at www.opera.com.

Opera Software ASA is headquartered in Oslo, Norway and has offices around the world, including in the United States, Japan, Sweden, Poland, China, Korea, Czech Republic, Taiwan and India. Opera is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (Symbol: OPERA).

5 Responses to “ EU accuses Microsoft of illegally tying IE to Windows ”

Comment by Ver Noss

I’m very, very happy to see this case move forward.

I was sickened when the Bush administration let Microsoft go after ruining Netscape. Netscape is no more, but Opera is still around to defend the Web.

I hope that EU will make standards an important part of the case. Simply demanding a fine from Microsoft wouldn’t help anything. However, if they require Microsoft to ship a standards-compliant browser — that would be something!

Comment by Chris Hunt

So, presumably, in the brave new world after Opera have triumphed in this lawsuit, PCs will come without a web browser pre-loaded on them. Customers will be able to look at all the browsers in the marketplace – IE, FF, Opera, Safari, Chrome, etc. – and download the one of their choice.

Just one small problem here: How are they going to choose and download a new browser when they don’t have a browser pre-loaded on their machine?

Comment by Ver Noss

@Chris Hunt

When you turn on a new computer, it asks you some questions. One of the questions could be: which browser do you want to use. Several standards-compliant browsers could be listed and Windows would proceed to install the one you pick.

Not hard, it just requires someone with the will and power — Microsoft will not do this without some persuation.

Comment by Richard Rutter

Bruce – have the prior commenters understood the situation correctly? Is the issue that Microsoft includes Internet Explorer with Windows, or is it that Microsoft is preventing PC manufacturers from shipping Windows with other browsers pre-installed?

It’s a very important distinction. If the issue is the former, then the implication is that Windows would not be allowed to ship with any Microsoft software – after all there are alternatives to just about everything that Microsoft produces. It would also imply that Apple wouldn’t be allowed to ship OS X with Safari.

I’m presuming the issue is the latter case – that Microsoft shouldn’t be *preventing* or *not allowing* resellers to sell Windows PCs with whatever software they want. Which is why this ruling wouldn’t apply to Apple, because they make both the hardware and software so there are no third parties involved.

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