EU Warns Microsoft Over Windows 8
October 24, 2012

Microsoft Warned By EU About Windows 8 Browser Options

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

The European Commission warned Microsoft that it risked an investigation into its new Windows 8 software if the company did not comply with web browser choice guidelines.

Microsoft failed to provide clients with a web browser choice on Windows 7 in 2011 through 2012. Now, the Commission is concerned that Windows 8, due to launch this week, could do the same thing.

European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he has contacted Microsoft and made the point that they should not repeat the same mistake in the new software package.

He told a press conference it was essential Microsoft give customers a clear and simple web browser choice "if they don't want to take the risk of a new investigation."

He added if companies "enter into commitments they must do what they committed to do otherwise they must face the consequences."

Microsoft will be launching Windows 8 alongside its Surface tablet computer in the U.S. and in China on Friday. Although this date had previously been uncontested, Apple announced yesterday it will begin preorders for its iPad Mini on Friday. It also started shipping various new Macintosh computers yesterday.

Microsoft has lost ground to Apple and Google with portable electronic devices like tablets and smartphones, but it hopes its new Surface tablet will allow the company to place a dent in the industry.

Almunia said the Commission has also looked at Windows RT, which is the operating system designed to run the new Surface tablet.

Despite having ran into problems with its Web browser options for the past decade on several operating systems, Microsoft said that after discussions with the Commission, it will be making adjustments to Windows 8.

"We are changing some aspects of the way the Browser Choice Screen works on Windows 8 and will have those changes implemented when Windows 8 launches later this week," it said in a statement.

Microsoft apologized for a "technical error" on Windows 7, making the 28 million users of that operating system unable to choose between the company's default Internet Explorer and competing browsers.

The Commission said on Wednesday that it sent a preliminary statement of objections to Microsoft, claiming it failed to offer users a web browser choice of Windows 7 between February 2011 and July 2012.

A statement by the Commission said that as a result, "millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen. Microsoft has acknowledged the choice screen was not displayed during that period."

Almunia said the investigation by the Commission sent a strong message to other companies that the EU was serious about dealing with competition issues.

According to EU law, a company found to have breached commitments given to resolve competition cases can face a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual sales.

The EU fined Microsoft $1.2 billion in 2008 for failing to comply with an order to share product information with rivals so that their software could work with Windows.