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EC pressure on Microsoft grows

Kroes trains legislative guns on Redmond

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The European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes is considering ordering Microsoft to offer rival browsers with its own software bundle.

As we reported in January, Microsoft warned shareholders of the possibility of such an action, which could even see older machines updated. One suggestion is that Microsoft could use its irritating automatic update system to offer users the chance to download another browser, or even download a few and give people a choice.

Competition authorities typically take one of two routes to dealing with companies which are found guilty of anti-competitive action. One option is to order a structural remedy, such as forcing a company to split up or spin off part of its business. Alternatively, they can instruct a firm to make a behavioural remedy, to change the way it does business.

The trouble with behavioural orders is they usually require detailed oversight to ensure the firm is complying properly.

Neil Barrett was the monitoring trustee who oversaw Microsoft and the Commission's previous agreement on workgroup servers and the bundling of media players. His role ended in March.

Regulators can also fine the company concerned, of course - in Europe this is limited to ten per cent of turnover.

The European Commission investigation into Microsoft's browser behaviour began after a complaint from Opera, joined earlier this year by Mozilla. ®

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