Microsoft ends 10-year fight with Europe on browsers

Microsoft has reached agreement with European Union anti-trust regulators to allow European users a choice of web browsers. The accord ends 10 years of dispute between the two sides.

Over that time, the EU imposed fines totalling 1.68bn euros ($2.44bn, £1.5bn).

The European Union said Microsoft's legally binding agreement ended the dispute and averted a possible fine for the company.

The EU's concern was that the US computer giant may have broken competition rules by bundling its Internet Explorer web browser with its dominant Windows operating system.

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."

Better browsers

She said the company's pledge was an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer better browsers in the future.

Microsoft's commitments will be valid in the European Economic Area for five years.

In preliminary findings released in January, the European Commission said Microsoft "may have infringed" a European Treaty by "abusing its dominant market position" by bundling the company's web browser with its Windows PC operating system.

Internet Explorer is used by more than half of global internet users, with Mozilla's Firefox at about 32% and Norway's Opera with 2%.

It was the minnow operator Opera that brought the latest complaint.

Long history

In July, Microsoft proposed a consumer choice screen that allowed users to pick from a number of different browsers.

The Commission then asked Microsoft to improve the choice screen, which it has now done.

In 2004, the EU fined Microsoft and forced it to offer a version of its Windows operating system without Microsoft's own media player.

The company was also told to give rivals more information about how Windows works, so they could make their own software integrate better with the operating system.

Microsoft appealed against the decision but lost its case in 2007.

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