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Web Browser Case

February 25, 2009

Google has thrown its weight behind European Commission antitrust charges against Microsoft, insisting the software giant's bundling of Internet Explorer Web browser with Windows is stifling competition and innovation.

The Microsoft Windows logo surrounded by the EU stars
The EU charges could greatly damage Internet Explorer's market shareImage: DW Fotomontage

Google vice president for product management, Sundar Pichai, lashed out at Microsoft in a company blog on Tuesday, Feb. 24, saying the tying of Internet Explorer (IE) to Windows gave the program an unfair advantage over other browsers.

He said Google would apply to become a third party in the commission's antitrust proceeding against Microsoft. The search engine leader joins Mozilla -- producer of the Firefox Web browser -- and private Norwegian firm Opera in arguing against Microsoft's practices.

"Google's perspective will be useful as the European Commission evaluates remedies to improve the user experience and offer consumers real choices," Pichai said in his blog.

"We don't know how the commission's proceeding will evolve," he said. "But we are confident that more competition in this space will mean greater innovation on the Web and a better user experience for people everywhere.

"Greater competition will drive more innovation within browsers themselves -- as well as in Web design, enabling sites to load faster and offer new kinds of interactive tools and applications."

Firefox Web browser logo
Other browsers such as Firefox are overwhelmed by Internet Explorer

Microsoft market leader

Google unveiled its own browser, Chrome, late last year, but the application has yet to attract significant market share.

As of January, Microsoft's IE has a hold on 67.5 percent of Web users, while Firefox is next with 21.53 percent, followed by Apple's Safari with 8.29 percent and Chrome with 1.12 percent, according to figures from Internet research firm Net Applications, news agency AFP reported.

"Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users," Pichai said.

In January, European regulators formally charged Microsoft with abusing its overwhelming market position by bundling its IE Web browser with its Windows operating systems, which are used in 95 percent of the world's PCs.

Heavy fines a possibility

If Microsoft loses the case, it could be made to pay considerable fines in addition to untying IE from Windows, and possibly even allow customers to disable IE, a commission spokesman said in Brussels on Tuesday.

Google browser Chrome
Google Chrome has barely been able to break into the marketImage: AP

The commission would consider ordering Microsoft to give users an objective opportunity to choose between competing Web browsers instead of, or in addition to, Internet Explorer, the spokesman said.

"Microsoft could also be ordered to technically allow the user to disable Internet Explorer code should the user choose to install a competing browser," the spokesman added.

Microsoft has until March to respond to the commission's charges. The company has already been fined more than $2 billion (1.56 billion euros) for past violations and for failing to act on commission rulings.

Author: Darren Mara (afp/reuters/ap)

Editor: Trinity Hartman