Microsoft explores browser options

As a result of action by the European Commission, Microsoft will offer users of the Windows operating system in Europe a choice of different web browsers. The company will also allow computer manufacturers and users to turn off Microsoft Internet Explorer.

To ensure a boost in competition on the web browser market, the European Commission has adopted a decision that renders the commitments made by Microsoft legally binding.

The announcement by Microsoft addresses the Commission’s concerns that the company may have tied its Internet Explorer web browser to the Windows PC operating system, in breach of European Union rules on abuse of a dominant market position.

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 a ‘Choice Screen’ available for five years in the European Economic Area through its Windows Update mechanism that will enable users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to choose which web browser they want to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft Internet Explorer.

The commitments also allow computer manufacturers to install competing web browsers, set those as default and turn off Internet Explorer.

The decision follows a Statement of Objections sent to Microsoft by the Commission on 15 January 2009, which outlined the its preliminary view that Microsoft may have infringed Article 82 of the Commission’s Treaty (now Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) by abusing its dominant position in the market for client PC operating systems through tying of Internet Explorer to Windows.