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.