Trade group joins browser battle against Microsoft in Europe

Brussels (Belgium) – The European Commission (EC) won a brand new member in its fight against Microsoft over the Internet Explorer web browser. A trade group that represents rival software companies such as Sun, Oracle and IBM, The European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) joined the fight as an interested third party, which allows the group to speak at a hearing if Microsoft chooses to move forward with one.

Three other groups have also joined the Opera in the battle: Mozilla, Google, and the Free Software Foundation Europe.

In January, the EU accused Microsoft of distorting competition by attaching the Internet Explorer browser to its Operating System, forcing it on every Windows based PC. “This is an important case to ensure that browsers can compete on the merits and that consumers have a true choice in the software they use to access the World Wide Web,” said Thomas Vinje, a partner in the Brussels office of law firm Clifford Chance and spokesman for ECIS.

“Despite consistently lower user satisfaction ratings for IE, the Microsoft browser maintains its dominant position as the gateway to the World Wide Web because of illegal bundling with the Windows operating system,” Vinje said in a statement, adding “smaller, more innovative browser developers need a level playing field” to have an equal opportunity.

Microsoft must reply to the formal statement of objections sent to the company by the EU back in January by April 21. The company can either request a hearing with regulators or submit a written response to both Opera and the other involved parties.