Microsoft unfairly boosts market share of Internet Explorer by tying it to Windows, the European Commission has found in a preliminary conclusion delivered to Microsoft last week.
The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90% of the world's PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match. The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head to head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain. In addition, the Commission is concerned that the ubiquity of Internet Explorer creates artificial incentives for content providers and software developers to design websites or software primarily for Internet Explorer which ultimately risks undermining competition and innovation in the provision of services to consumers.
The finding was made in a Statement of Objections, the latest in a long process of EU actions against Microsoft. Back in 2004, the EC found Microsoft violated antitrust principles by tying Windows Media Player to Windows, a finding upheld by the Court of First Instance in 2007.
Microsoft can now respond to the findings and request an oral hearing before a final determination is made.
Norway's Opera Software initiated the IE complaint and president Jon von Tetzchner hailed the news, according to ComputerWorld:
This is extremely important. It's important that people have a choice of browsers. It's important that we don't have one company dominating the browser market.