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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
European Commission Accepts Microsoft Commitments to Give Users Browser Choice


The European Commission has adopted a decision that renders legally binding commitments offered by Microsoft to boost competition on the web browser market, ending a long antitrust dispute with the U.S. software maker.

The commitments address Commission concerns that Microsoft may have tied its web browser Internet Explorer to the Windows PC operating system in breach of EU rules on abuse of a dominant market position. Microsoft commits to offer European users of Windows choice among different web browsers and to allow computer manufacturers and users the possibility to turn Internet Explorer off.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use. Such choice will not only serve to improve people's experience of the internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in the future."

Under the commitments approved by the Commission, Microsoft will make available for five years in the European Economic Area (through the Windows Update mechanism) a " Choice Screen" enabling users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to choose which web browser(s) they want to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft's browser Internet Explorer.

The commitments also provide that computer manufacturers will be able to install competing web browsers, set those as default and turn Internet Explorer off.

Today's decision follows a Statement of Objections sent to Microsoft by the Commission on 15 January 2009. The Statement of Objections outlined the Commission?s preliminary view that Microsoft may have infringed Article 82 of the EC Treaty by abusing its dominant position in the market for client PC operating systems through the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows.

The Commission?s preliminary view was that competition was distorted by Microsoft tying Internet Explorer to Windows. This was because it offered Microsoft an artificial distribution advantage not related to the merits of its product on more than 90 per cent of personal computers. Furthermore, the Commission's preliminary view was that this tying hindered innovation in the market and created artificial incentives for software developers and content providers to design their products or web sites primarily for Internet Explorer.

The approved commitments address these concerns. PC users, by means of the Choice Screen, will have an effective and unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing web browsers.

"This is a victory for the future of the Web. This decision is also a celebration of open Web standards, as these shared guidelines are the necessary ingredients for innovation on the Web," said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO, Opera Software. "Opera has long been at the forefront of Web standards, which ensures that people have equal access to the Web anytime, anywhere and on any device. We see the outcome of the EU?s investigation as a testament to our mission." "The days when companies could use poor standards support to tie down users are over," said H?kon Wium Lie, Chief Technology Officer, Opera Software. "The browser choice screen will give users access to better browsers with better support for Web standards."

In July 2009, Microsoft also made proposals in relation to disclosures of interoperability information that would improve interoperability between third party products and several Microsoft products, including Windows, Windows Server, Office, Exchange, and SharePoint. After discussions with the Commission, Microsoft is today publishing an improved version of the undertaking and related documents on its website.


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