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.”
There’s a certain amount of deja vu involved since the the the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows was a key part of US antitrust cases against Microsoft in recent years with Microsoft claiming it was a key part of the operating system. As for the standards compliance, that has long been an IE annoyance for developers, but I had not thought of it as something you could complain to European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes about.
So what does Opera want?
Opera is asking the Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, to force Microsoft to unbundle IE from Windows, or include other browsers as a standard part of its operating system. It also wants it to require Microsoft to adhere to industry standards with its Web browser.
A modern PC OS without any browser in the box would be incredibly annoying to users, so I would guess that getting Opera bundled on an equal footing with Internet Explorer is what they really want. As for requiring adherence to industry standards, it’s another demonstration of the risk that Microsoft continually runs of being treated and regulated as a utility. Governments routinely mandate standards compliance to electrical and landline telephone utility monopolies so imposing interoperability standards on the maker of %95+ of all PC operating systems must surely be tempting to an ambitious bureaucrat. Now the question is whether Neelie Kroes will rise to the bait.
Update: The Opera press release is here.