The European Commission (EC) has informed Microsoft of its preliminary view that Microsoft has failed to comply with its commitments to offer users a choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser.
The EC sent a 'Statement of Objections' to Microsoft, which is a formal step in Commission investigations. The Commission informed Microsoft of the objections raised against the company and Microsoft can reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present comments.
In 2009, the Commission had made commitments legally binding on Microsoft. The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.
In its statement of objections, the Commission takes the preliminary view that Microsoft has failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen. Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.
In December 2009, the Commission had made legally binding on Microsoft commitments offered by the US software company to address competition concerns related to the tying of Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer, to its dominant client PC operating system Windows. Specifically, Microsoft committed to make available for five years (i.e. until 2014) in the European Economic Area a "choice screen" enabling users of Windows to choose in an informed and unbiased manner which web browser(s) they wanted to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft's web browser. The choice screen was provided as of March 2010 to European Windows users who have Internet Explorer set as their default web browser.
The Commission had opened proceedings to investigate the potential non-compliance with the browser choice commitments on 16 July 2012.
The Commission concluded that the commitments would remedy its competition concerns and made the commitments legally binding on Microsoft in December 2009, pursuant to European Antitrust Regulation.
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia will hold a news conference around 6 a.m. EDT to announce his decision.
"We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it," Microsoft said responding to EC's announcement. "Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we have taken steps to strengthen our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission."
Microsoft added that after discussions with the Commission, the company is 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.