EU and Microsoft browser battle “almost over”

The European Union and Microsoft are likely to end a decade-long dispute next week when EU antitrust regulators will accept the company’s amended offer of allowing consumer choice on internet browsers.

EU and Microsoft browser battle

Three people familiar with the situation claim the European Commission is expected to approve Microsoft’s plan to make it easier for consumers to choose rival browsers during Windows installations.

Microsoft amended its proposals for the second time after rivals such as Opera and Google complained to the European Commission that the remedy announced in October wouldn’t be effective.

“A decision could come as early as next week during the last meeting of the college of commissioners for this year,” one of the people told Reuters, adding Microsoft had made two changes.

“The order of the browsers will be randomly presented instead of alphabetically in the original proposal. The presentation of the ballot screen is as neutral as possible,” the person said.

The decision would allow Microsoft to avoid another hefty penalty, having already been fined a total of 1.68 billion euros (£1.5 billion) by the Commission over charges it breached EU antitrust rules.

The Commission had sought feedback from Microsoft’s rivals, PC makers and other interested parties on the company’s proposed ballot screen, which was amended after an informal market test. “The Commission will not accept any commitments unless consumers are ensured a real, viable choice,” Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said.

Opera, whose 2007 complaint about Internet Explorer triggered the Commission’s probe, said the changes would benefit users. “Those two changes, if indeed it appears to be the case, are an improvement on the previous proposal. They are significant and would be helpful to users,” said Opera’s Chief Technology Officer Hakon Wium Lie.

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