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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Google Joins EU antitrust Case Against Microsoft

Google has applied to join Mozilla in the European Commission's proceeding against Microsoft as the European Commission probes antitrust charges related to the software giant's Internet Explorer browser.

Last month the European Commission sent a statement of objections to Microsoft about the tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system, which it said "harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice." Then in a blog post earlier this month, Mozilla's Mitchell Baker weighed in, saying that "Microsoft's business practices have fundamentally diminished (in fact, came very close to eliminating) competition, choice and innovation in how people access the Internet."

"Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users," Sundar Pichai, Google vice president product manager, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "This is because Internet Explorer is tied to Microsoft's dominant computer operating system, giving it an unfair advantage over other browsers. Compare this to the mobile market, where Microsoft cannot tie Internet Explorer to a dominant operating system, and its browser therefore has a much lower usage. The value of competition for users (even in the limited form we see today) is clear: tabbed browsing, faster downloads, private browsing features, and more. Even greater competition will drive more innovation within browsers themselves - as well as in web design, enabling sites to load faster and offer new kinds of interactive tools and applications."

Google introduced the Chrome browser last year, which has taken little market share.

The Internet company joins the Mozilla foundation, producer of the Firefox Web browser, and Norway's Opera, a privately held company.

If the preliminary views expressed in the EC's Statement of Objections are confirmed, Microsoft could be subject to a fine and an order requiring it to cease bundling its browser and operating system.

In 2007, European Union courts upheld the European Commission's finding that Microsoft violated antitrust law by bundling its Windows Media player with the Windows operating system. It also found Microsoft used illegal tactics against RealNetworks real player.

The company has been fined more than $2 billion for its violations and for failing to carry out remedies imposed by the Commission.

In 2000, a U.S. judge decided that Microsoft had broken the law after it combined its Internet Explorer browser and the Windows operating system. The most serious violations of the law were upheld on appeal, but the company continued to bundle its operating system and browser.

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