Microsoft’s browser promise gets a jolt from EC

By : |June 11, 2009 0

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Apparently unimpressed with Microsoft’s announcement that to give computer manufacturers the option to buy Windows 7 without a browser, in order to comply with European Commission competition law, the Commission said today that Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less choice to the customer.

“In terms of potential remedies if the Commission were to find that Microsoft had committed an abuse, the Commission has suggested that consumers should be offered a choice of browser, not that Windows should be supplied without a browser at all,” said an official statement (MEMO/09/272).

The Commission also made it clear that it was still deciding whether Microsoft’s behavior since 1996 had been anti-competitive, and if so what remedy would be required to improve consumer choice.

“At the level of both computer manufacturers and retail sales, the Commission’s Statement of Objections (SO) suggested that consumers should be provided with a genuine choice of browsers,” it said.

“Given that over 95 per cent of consumers acquire Windows pre-installed on a PC, it is particularly important to ensure consumer choice through the computer manufacturer channel.”

As for retail sales, which amount to less than 5 per cent of total sales, the Commission had suggested to Microsoft that consumers be provided with a choice of web browsers. Instead Microsoft has apparently decided to supply retail consumers with a version of Windows without a web browser at all. Rather than more choice, Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less, the Commission observed.

The Commission would inter alia take into account the long standing nature of Microsoft’s conduct. It would also have to consider whether this initial step of technical separation of IE from Windows could be negated by other actions by Microsoft.

In an antitrust ruling, EU had earlier imposed a $1.4billion fine on Microsoft for not providing key code to rival software makers.

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