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Microsoft browser-rival Opera Software has welcomed a European Commission statement that the company has broken European competition law by including Internet Explorer with Windows.

Opera chief executive Jon von Tetzchner said the Commission's statement demonstrated that it's serious about getting Microsoft to "start competing on the merits in the browser market and letting consumers have a real choice of internet browsers."

According to Opera, the browser is the "most important application on the PC.

"The Commission has confirmed that it will do what it can to make sure consumers are able to continue to freely enjoy one of the most important innovations in the history of humanity: the internet," von Tetzchner said in a statement released by Opera.

The statement came after the European Commission last week issued what is, in effect, its preliminary findings that Microsoft has - since 1996 - broken Commission law by bundling IE with Windows. The Commission issued those findings via a Statement of Objections from the Directorate General for Competition.

That statement followed a complaint lodged by Opera in December 2007 that Microsoft was continuing to abuse its dominant position by tying its browser to its operating system and by not following web protocols.

In that complaint Opera said it wants Microsoft to unbundle IE from Windows or to include another, alternative browser, and it wants the Commission to ensure that IE adheres to web standards.

Opera's action appears designed to test the Court of First Instance's earlier judgment that Microsoft illegally tied its Media Player to Windows. Opera said it's not surprised the Commission has issued a statement of objections based on the principles in that earlier judgment.

Microsoft has two months to issue a written response to the directorate general and can request a hearing. The company said last week it's studying the statement of objections and is committed to conducting its business in full compliance with European law. ®

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