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EC drops Microsoft browser probe

Redmond agrees to offer more choice to customers

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Kroes said Microsoft’s biz strategy of tying its IE browser to the firm’s Windows OS was akin to a supermarket only offering one brand of shampoo on the shelf, with all other choices tucked away out of sight.

“What we are saying today is that all the brands should be on the shelf.”

She said the EC’s verdict addressed the competition concerns the executive wing of Brussels had highlighted in a Statement of Objections it sent to Microsoft in January this year.

“Microsoft’s commitments are made legally-binding by today’s decision, which closes the Commission’s antitrust investigation into the tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows PC operating system,” said Kroes.

“I hope that today’s decision closes a long chapter in Microsoft’s sometimes uneasy relationship with the Commission, and opens a new, more positive one,” she added.

Under the deal, Microsoft will be required to report to the Commission within the first six months of implementing the Choice Screen to provide details on how well the process is working for Windows customers. After that it will cough up progress reports to the EC on an annual basis.

Separately Microsoft has published interoperability proposals on its website today, that the EC said it would monitor to see how those plans affect the software market.

Redmond will spit out an interoperability package that includes warranties that MS will offer to third parties, which, if necessary, can be privately enforced, said Kroes.

In effect, Brussels is keeping an eagle eye on Microsoft and the outcome of the market's response to its latest pledge will help the EC assess its pending antitrust probe into the company's interoperability business practices. ®

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