antitrust charges have been a long running legal row between
Microsoft and the EU. The web browser industry's smaller players have
complained for years that the dominance of the Windows operating
system allows Microsoft to abuse its monopoly power and effectively
prevent other browsers from being used.
Microsoft offered the
ballot box for browsers in October after the European Commission
asked for the ballot box to be used. There were complaints about the
first iteration of the ballot box with competitors claiming it didn’t
offer enough information on the alternative browsers.
this month reports came in that the EC was set to approve
the modified proposal from Microsoft that offered more detail on
browsers and randomized choices. Today the proposal
has been approved. Starting in March, the ballot box will be sent
out as an update to Windows computers and will show users a pop-up
window that offers the a browser choice. The ballot box will
offer up to 12 other browsers for users to choose from. The deal also
allows Microsoft to escape other massive fines as long as it meets
the conditions of the deal.
EU competition commissioner Nellie
Kroes said, "The (European) Commission has resolved a serious
competition concern for a key market for the development of the
Internet." She called the deal an "early Christmas present"
Kroes describes the problem with Microsoft's IE
browser as, "It is as if you went to the supermarket and they
only offered you one brand of shampoo on the shelf, and all the other
choices are hidden out the back, and not everyone knows about them.
What we are saying today is that all the brands should be on the
The ballot box pop-up screen will be
downloaded to Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 machines that are
using Internet Explorer as the default browser.
million computers are expected to display the ballot box by mid-March
with 30 million new machines displaying the ballot box over the next
five years. If rival browser makers can’t grow their market share
after this deal goes into effect, they have no one to blame but
themselves. Microsoft will meet with EC members again in six months
to assess how the compliance is going with the new deal.
Yahoo News reports that
Microsoft is happy with the deal and general counsel Brad Smith said,
"[Microsoft is pleased with] final resolution of several
long-standing competition law issues in Europe" [and looks
forward to building] "on the dialogue and trust that has been
established between Microsoft and the Commission."
isn’t completely out of the woods yet in Europe though. Kroes says
that complaints from rival software makers that Microsoft is not
sharing key information with them that is needed to make their
software work with Microsoft products is still being investigated.