Microsoft has officially responded to the antitrust complaint filed by Opera yesterday with the European Commission. The software giant's key point: there are plenty of readily-available choices for Windows users looking for a browser other than Internet Explorer, and there's nothing forcing anyone to surf with a browser he or she doesn't like.
"It's important to note that computer users have complete freedom of choice to use and set as default any browser they wish, including Opera, and PC manufacturers can also preinstall any browser as the default on any Windows machine they sell," Microsoft spokesperson Jack Evans told Ars. "Microsoft is committed to ensuring that freedom through our Windows Principles."
In its complaint, Opera accuses Microsoft of harming competition in the browser space by producing a browser that's not standards compliant and illegally monopolizing the market by bundling IE with Windows. The Norwegian company would like the EC to force Microsoft to ship Windows without IE preloaded or with additional browsers installed. In addition, the company believes that Microsoft should be forced to follow "fundamental and open web standards accepted by web authoring communities."
In response, Microsoft defended the deep ties between Windows and IE. "Internet Explorer has been an integral part of the Windows operating system for over a decade and supports a wide range of web standards," said Evans.
Microsoft decided to integrate IE into Windows several years ago, and after IE6 SP1 shipped, the company said that IE6 SP1 would be the final standalone version of the browser. "As part of the OS, IE will continue to evolve," Microsoft said at the time, "but there will be no future standalone installations."
That changed a little over a year later, when the company decided to get the IE team back together. In January 2006, the first public beta of IE7 appeared, followed by the final release in October of that year.
Ironically, Microsoft's hand was forced by the browser competition—especially Firefox and, to a lesser extent, Opera. Both browsers introduced a number of innovations that made IE6 look stale and dated by comparison, and IE has seen its market share drop to as little as 60 percent in some parts of Europe. In a way, this supports Microsoft's argument regarding a diversity of options, but a 60 percentmarket share is still formidable and, of course, large enough that web developers are still left catering to IE's particularities.
Despite its belief that Opera's complaint is without merit, Microsoft is pledging full cooperation with the EC during the investigation.