Microsoft Illegally Tied IE to Windows | Интернет-журнал "Корпоративные информационные системы"
It's 1997 again. violations go back 12 years, according to the Europe's commissioner. Big bucks are at stake.

Microsoft Illegally Tied IE to Windows

Remember what a rough time had with the #39;s (EC) competition directorate in 2007 and 2008?

If CEO Steve Ballmer thought those days of proceedings were receding into the past, he has another thing coming.

The EC has sent a so-called «Statement of Objections,» or SO, indicating that it believes the company has illegally tied its Internet Explorer browser to its operating system since 1996.

After paying nearly a billion dollars in fines this time last year, and another $1.35 billion in fines its appealing, can't seem to get the EC's commissioner to stop biting at its pants leg.

«In the SO, the Commission sets out evidence and outlines its preliminary conclusion that s tying of Internet Explorer to the operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice,» a statement released by the EC on Friday states.

Meanwhile, appears to be trying to take a proactive approach to its latest contretemps with the EC.

«We are committed to conducting our business in full compliance with European law. We are studying the Statement of Objections now,» according to a statement posted on its site on Friday.

The Statement of Objections itself will not be made public, according to an EC spokesperson.

Although has been under harsh scrutiny from the EC for several years, and lost a major appeal of an earlier case in September 2007, the latest dispute is linked to a complaint filed more than a year ago by browser maker Opera based in Oslo, Norway.

In its complaint in December 2007, Opera claimed it has been frozen out of the browser marketplace due to #39;s bundling of IE with

The EC's statement agrees and says that it has found that the tying behavior goes all the way back to 1996. Given that this case goes back further than earlier EC actions against and involves #39;s cash cow, the penalties if it is found guilty could be astronomical.

Several analysts registered surprised that the EC continues to pursue especially for tying IE with nbsp;— particularly since IE's market share has been declining significantly in recent years.

For instance, according to Internet statistics tracker Net Applications, which provides numbers for worldwide usage, in December, IE's market share was down to 68 percent. Last January, IE held a 75.5 percent share.

During that same period, Firefox's market share increased from 17 percent to 21 percent, while Apple's Safari grew from 5.8 percent to nearly 8 percent. Bringing up the rear, Google's Chrome browser netted just 1 percent by the end of 2008; Opera and Netscape both captured less than 1 percent each.

With #39;s market share declining in the face of challengers Firefox and Safari, and Opera's share so miniscule to begin with, analysts were baffled about why the EC would pursue on tying now.

Besides massive fines, what good would it do to force to ship in Europe without IE? After all, a version of that shipped without Media Player as mandated by the EC has been a market failure in the European Union (EU).

«This is the same old stuff,» Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told «It's really unfortunate because the EC seems to be establishing an authoritarian role [where] they go after anyone they have a case against,» he added.

Independent analyst Dwight Davis agrees. «I think it's sort of foolish to pursue on the bundling issue,» Davis told «Obviously, there's been some success with Firefox and QApple browsers getting traction.»

Despite IE's slow decline, though, that is apparently not enough for the EC and its fiery Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who has spoken publicly about her feelings that is a predatory monopolist.

has eight weeks to respond and is entitled to a hearing, according to the EC's release.

«If the preliminary views expressed in the SO are confirmed, the Commission may impose a fine on require to cease the abuse and impose a remedy that would restore genuine consumer choice and enable competition on the merits,» the statement says.

In short, if loses this case, it could cost a lot in fines going back to 1996, may force the company to ship in European Union nations sans IE, and perhaps be forced to offer third-party browsers bundled with

Even after that's settled, of course, it's not over.

Besides its outstanding appeal on the earlier case, also still faces scrutiny over whether or not its actions in obtaining International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards status for its Office Open XML file formats violated EC laws.

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