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01 June 2009, 14:46

European Commission considers imposing new special conditions on Microsoft

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An article in the Wall Street Journal says that European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes is considering imposing tighter regulations on Microsoft. It says the company could be compelled to package browsers that compete with Internet Explorer, with its Windows operating system. Jonathan Todd, a Commission spokesman, had stated similar considerations publicly in February. A response from Microsoft was still being considered at that time, but it evidently made no impression on Commissioner Kroes.

Under the European Commission's plans, writes the WSJ, Windows users would be offered a choice between several browsers when setting up their PCs. They would also have the option of making any one of the programs their default browser. Furthermore, Microsoft would have to make contracts with PC manufacturers to ensure they did not remove the option of selecting a browser.

For years the competition watchdogs have been insisting that Microsoft, on pain of being fined under cartel law, decouple Internet Explorer, Media Player and Windows. The current proceedings against Internet Explorer were unleashed in December 2007 by a complaint from Opera, the Norwegian browser developer. Mozilla joined the action in February and Google followed a few weeks later.

The demands of Microsoft's competitors are evidently going still further: the WSJ says they want not only new PC buyers, but all Windows users to be offered alternatives to IE by the operating system's update function. It still isn't clear what criteria would be used to select the alternatives. Another question is whether they would have to be pre-installed on new computers or whether a link for downloading the program would be sufficient.


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