Microsoft competitors join in EU antitrust case over Internet Explorer

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The European Commission (EC) has granted a request from the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) to be a third-party participant in its case against Microsoft’s practises over its bundling of Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system.

The ECIS, however, has members who are competitors to Microsoft in its different fronts; including Adobe, Corel, IBM, Nokia, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, and more importantly, Opera – who asked the European Commission to investigate Microsoft in December 2007.

“Despite consistently lower user satisfaction ratings for (Internet Explorer), the Microsoft browser maintains its dominant position as the gateway to the World Wide Web because of illegal bundling with the Windows operating system,” it said in a statement.

“Other browsers that are rated superior to (Internet Explorer) cannot compete on their merits.”

The ECIS joins the Mozilla Foundation, Google and the Free Software Foundation Europe as third party participants in the case. Mozilla is the developer behind Firefox, while Google recently entered the market with its Google Chrome, along with its open-source “Chromium” browser – which is not distributed by Google in any way.

“This is an important case to ensure that browsers can compete on the merits and that consumers have a true choice in the software they use to access the World Wide Web. Smaller, more innovative browser developers need a level playing field,” ECIS spokesman, Thomas Vinje, said in a statement.

“That is why there is such broad support for the Commission’s preliminary findings of abuse.”

However, Microsoft has said that it will be making Internet Explorer 8, the next version of the popular browser, a removable option in the latest version of the Windows operating system, Windows 7. It is also no longer part of the main Windows Explorer since version 7, but is still attached under Internet Explorer 6. It is also more likely that the EC will be fining Microsoft, based around the relationship between Microsoft and the European Commission.

Internet Explorer, however, has been recently losing market share in the browser wars, but is still the number one browser. While this could be because of it has been delivered with the Windows operating system, many are opting to use other browsers because of security, among other reasons.

Microsoft will be responding to the EC’s statement of objection on April 28, after asking for an extension on the original date of April 21.

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