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There may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel in Microsoft’s antitrust battle with the European Union (EU). Since the 1990s, the European Commission (EC), the regulatory body of the EU, has been investigating Microsoft’s business and competition practices. As a result of these investigations, the company has already paid out $2.5 billion in antitrust fines in Europe alone.
Specifically, the EC has determined that Microsoft’s provision of Internet Explorer as the only clear choice of Internet browser for PC users violates Europe’s antitrust laws. Microsoft’s first response to these concerns was to offer to launch Windows 7, set to be released October 22, unaccompanied by any Internet browser. This proposal was rejected by the EU, however, because “[r]ather than more choice, Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less.”
However, Microsoft and the EU seem finally to have reached a mutually agreeable solution, as the EU announced Wednesday that it supports a market test of Microsoft’s latest suggestion. Under Microsoft’s latest plan for Windows 7, users will see a screen displaying twelve different Internet browsers that PC users may choose to download and utilize in lieu of the pre-installed Internet Explorer.
Will Microsoft’s plan actually and significantly increase the prominence of other Internet browsers on PC computers? I doubt it, as many Windows users may be averse to downloading a new browser when they already have an efficient and easy-to-use browser available on their computers. It may, however, be enough of an effort by Microsoft to limit its own dominance in the Internet browser market to keep the EU off of its back, for now.
– Maurie Donnelly
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