Microsoft and EU settle dispute


Microsoft ended more than a decade of antitrust disputes with the European Union today by giving consumers a choice among web browsers.

Microsoft's Windows operating system will include a screen that gives users the option of using rival browsers. The so-called choice screen, available by mid-March, lets users turn off Microsoft's Internet Explorer and install an alternative.

The accord eliminates the possibility of Microsoft having to pay a large fine and means the company can increase focus on a shrinking market share in Europe. Mozilla's Firefox overtook Internet Explorer as the most popular browser in Germany, according to a study this month.

Microsoft was fined €1.68 billion in previous EU antitrust investigations.

Now, however, consumers who buy personal computers will be given a choice of the 12 most widely used browsers to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft's, the European Commission said in a statement. The deal also allows computer makers to ship PCs without Internet Explorer.

"I hope that today's decision closes a long chapter in Microsoft's sometimes uneasy relationship with the commission," said Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes at a press conference in Brussels today.

"For the first time in over a decade, Internet users in Europe will have an effective and unbiased choice between Microsoft's Internet Explorer and competing Web browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera," said Ms Kroes.

The commission had accused Microsoft in January of breaking EU antitrust rules by bundling Explorer with its Windows operating system, which powers more than 90 per cent of PCs.

"We look forward to building on the dialogue and trust that has been established between Microsoft and the commission," said Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith in a statement.

Ms Kroes made a point of resolving years of conflict with Microsoft by settling the cases before her five-year term ends next month. The agreement, which will last five years, allows the commission to review the accord in two years. Microsoft will report on compliance starting in six months, the commission said.