July 25, 2009

Microsoft Attempts To Find Anti-Trust Solution

Microsoft is offering a viable solution in an effort to appease European Commission (EC) regulators who are considering possible remedies to avoid further legal action with the European Union.

The software giant faced charges of monopoly abuse by The European Commission for bundling its flagship Internet Explorer (IE) in the almost ubiquitous Windows operating system without the option of other browsers. The integration of IE into the operating system is thought to be what made Microsoft victorious in the browser war as every Windows user has a copy of IE.

Now, Microsoft is offering a solution whereby consumers would be shown a "ballot screen" from which they could easily install competing web browsers. They could then set their browser of choice as default and disable Internet Explorer. Windows 7 would also include IE, but the proposal gives consumers a free choice of web browser through the ballot screen.

It has not been confirmed whether regulators were satisfied by this move and if it would be enough to settle antitrust action and help the company to avoid new fines.

Microsoft has already paid $2.4 million through a series of battles with the EU executive.

According to EU officials, this case exposes possible antitrust violations dating as far back as 1996.

Regulators called for a similar proposal back in January, when they requested that Microsoft offer several browsers on Windows. Microsoft's proposal would go into affect with its newest browser.

"We believe that if ultimately accepted, this proposal will fully address the European competition law issues relating to the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows and interoperability with our high-volume products," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in a release.

"This would mark a big step forward in addressing a decade of legal issues and would be good news for European consumers and our partners in the industry."

Norwegian mobile Internet browser maker Opera Software ASA is also supporting the ballot screen option. The rival browser maker actually instigated the EU antitrust case with complaints that Microsoft was using its power as the leading software provider to strong-arm rivals unfairly.

In one of Microsoft's earlier attempts to compromise, it suggested having IE removed from Windows entirely and selling it without any Web browsers at all in Europe. This option was not accepted because the EU said it did not provide adequate customer choice to the 5 percent of users buying individually sold Windows software. 

The majority of people buy computers made by manufacturers such as Dell or HP that already have Windows installed. 

According to the EU, Microsoft has offered to provide more information to software developers who seek to make products compatible with Windows.

"The Commission welcomes this proposal, and will now investigate its practical effectiveness in terms of ensuring genuine consumer choice," the Washington-based firm said in a software release.


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