Microsoft hits back at Opera antitrust claims

The software giant has denied abusing its dominant market position to tie users to Internet Explorer

Microsoft has hit back at Opera antitrust claims regarding Internet Explorer, denying that it is abusing its dominant market position to lock users into the web browser.

The Norwegian browser company announced on Thursday that it had filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft, over Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) web browser. Opera's complaint was that Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by bundling IE with the Windows operating system. Bundling IE together with Windows means users have no choice in recieving it, they only have the option of deleting it afterwards.

Opera also claimed that Microsoft is hindering interoperability by not following accepted open web standards.

On Friday Microsoft hit back, indicating that it would not willingly unbundle IE from Windows.

"We believe the inclusion of the [IE] browser into the operating system benefits consumers, and that consumers and PC manufacturers are already free to choose to use any browsers they wish," said a Microsoft spokesperson. "Internet Explorer has been an integral part of the Windows operating system for over a decade and supports a wide range of web standards."

The Microsoft spokesperson claimed that "computer users have complete freedom of choice to use and set as default any browser they wish, including Opera, and PC manufacturers can also preinstall any browser as the default on any Windows machine they sell."

Opera filed the complaint against Microsoft on Wednesday, claiming that Microsoft has locked consumers into using IE, which has "only recently begun to offer some of the innovative features that other browsers have offered for years", such as tabbed browsing.

"We are filing this complaint on behalf of all consumers who are tired of having a monopolist make choices for them," said Jon von Tetzchner, chief executive officer of Opera. "In addition to promoting the free choice of individual consumers, we are a champion of open web standards and cross-platform innovation."

Opera asked the Commission to force Microsoft to unbundle IE from Windows, and to carry alternative browsers pre-installed on the desktop. Opera also asked the Commission to require Microsoft to follow "fundamental and open web standards accepted by web-authoring communities".

The browser company claimed that Microsoft's "unilateral control over standards in some markets has created a de facto standard that is more costly to support, harder to maintain, and technologically inferior and that can even expose users to security risks."

Critics of IE have claimed that the browser is not as secure as other browsers. Tristan Nitot, the president of Mozilla Europe, told last week that vulnerabilities in IE far outstrip flaws in Mozilla's Firefox browser in terms of severity and time to update.