25th Sep 2023

Microsoft browser battle draws to a close

  • Microsoft has clashed with Ms Kroes on several occasions over the last five years (Photo: Microsoft)

An important chapter in the European Commission's decade-long battle with software giant Microsoft appeared to be drawing to a close on Wednesday (7 October) following an announcement of a deal over web browsers.

The Commission has long complained that Microsoft's bundling of its Internet Explorer web browser with its Windows operating system has given it an unfair market distribution and clear advantage over competitors.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But the EU executive now appears happy with the roughly 20 changes that Microsoft has made to a July proposal to tackle the issue, with the new deal based around an explanatory screen offering users a choice between different browsers.

"Without choice, competition will die, and without competition, innovation will die," declared competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, who has been a major thorn in Microsoft's side since she took up the post 2004.

The Dutch commissioner who has slapped the US firm with over €1.2 billion in fines in the past appeared confident that this new agreement will work.

"I'm absolutely of the opinion that this is a trustful deal that we're making," Ms Kroes told journalists. "I trust Microsoft. I have contact with Steve Ballmer [Microsoft's CEO]. There can't be a misunderstanding."

Browser choice

Under the deal, Windows Update will automatically download a ballot screen to European users of Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP, with text explaining what browsers are.

Users will then be asked to select from a list of 12 browsers, including the five market leaders Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Opera.

The current agreement will now undergo one month of "market testing", during which the industry is able to submit suggestions for further changes.

Following the trial month, the Commission may then decide to make the commitment legally binding for five years and take no further action against Microsoft related to browsers.

As well as providing a degree of closure to Ms Kroes as she nears the end of her term, the deal will also help the software firm concentrate on upcoming issues such as the European release of its new browser - Windows 7 - that launches worldwide on Oct. 22.

The company's legal team will also be able to now turn most of its attention to clearing a proposed Yahoo search deal with US and European anti-trust regulators.

"We were very pleased that the European Commission announced this morning that it's going to move forward with proposals that we at Microsoft have developed with them," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief negotiator.

"This is a big step towards closing a long chapter in Microsoft's ant-itrust controversies in Europe," he said.

EU reaches browser agreement with Microsoft

The European Commission has dropped its anti-trust case related to Internet browsers against Microsoft, following commitments from the US software giant to provide users with greater choice.


China trade tension and migration deal This WEEK

An EU-China high-level economic is scheduled on Monday amid renewed tensions. Later this week, EU home affairs ministers will discuss the EU-Tunisia deal and the state of play of the EU pact on asylum and migration.

Latest News

  1. EU trade chief in Beijing warns China of only 'two paths' forward
  2. Why should taxpayers pay for private fishing fleets in third countries?
  3. Women at risk from shoddy EU laws on domestic workers
  4. EU poised to agree on weakened emission rules
  5. China trade tension and migration deal This WEEK
  6. Europe's energy strategy: A tale of competing priorities
  7. Why Greek state workers are protesting new labour law
  8. Gloves off, as Polish ruling party fights for power

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us