Norwegian browser vendor Opera apparently struck the fancy of European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes with their December 2007 complaint about Microsoft’s inclusion of Internet Explorer with Windows (more details including browser tie-ins like desktop search and Windows Live here). Today, Microsoft announced that they had received a billet-doux from Neelie in that regard:
Yesterday Microsoft received a Statement of Objections from the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission. The Statement of Objections expresses the Commission’s preliminary view that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 has violated European competition law. According to the Statement of Objections, other browsers are foreclosed from competing because Windows includes Internet Explorer. The Statement of Objections states that the remedies put in place by the U.S. courts in 2002 following antitrust proceedings in Washington, D.C. do not make the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows lawful under European Union law.
I’m no fan of Internet Explorer and rarely use it, but I’m wondering what alternative the Commission has in mind since a PC operating system without a Web browser is a little hard to bootstrap into useful life these days. At the time of the complaint Opera had asked that the European Union "force Microsoft to unbundle IE from Windows, or include other browsers as a standard part of it." Why am I thinking of a repeat of Windows XP N, the version of XP without Media Player that nobody bought?
Microsoft is in an awkward position on this complaint after the browser flummery that went on at the US antitrust trial, but that frankly seems like ancient history now. In any case, Microsoft has the opportunity to respond to the Statement of Objections within two months and also request a hearing whereupon the elves of Brussels will decide what they want to be done.
European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, fresh off her antitrust victory over Microsoft in the European Court of First Instance, has launched two new investigations into anticompetitive behavior by Microsoft:
Opera, the Norwegian browser company, has filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission claiming that Microsoft is abusing is dominant position in the PC operating systems market by “offering only Internet Explorer as a standard part of Windows, and hindering interoperability by not following accepted standards with IE.”
A coalition of rivals charged on Friday that Microsoft Corp.’s new Vista operating system coming out next week will perpetuate practices found illegal in the European Union nearly three years ago.
The group, which includes IBM, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, Adobe, Oracle and Red Hat, said its complaints made last year are yet to be addressed just days before Vista is due for release.
“Microsoft has clearly chosen to ignore the fundamental principles of the Commission’s March 2004 decision,” said Simon Awde, chairman of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS).
Microsoft said it had no comment. The Commission was not ready to act.
“We are in the process of examining this complaint,” a Commission spokesman said. ECIS disclosed on Friday that the latest additions to its complaint were made only last month, after it studied Vista.
Other complainants in the group include Corel, RealNetworks , Linspire and Opera.
The ECIS press release is here and technologies specifically called out are XAML and Open XML. The European Commission always seems to move at a snail’s place, but they do move eventually so their reaction to Vista continues to be something to watch.