Microsoft strikes back at Opera antitrust claims

Software giant denies abusing its market position and says it has no intention of unbundling IE and Windows.

Microsoft denied on Friday antitrust claims from Opera Software that the software giant is abusing its dominant market position to lock users into the Internet Explorer Web browser.

Opera, based in Norway, announced Thursday that it had filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging that Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by bundling IE with the Windows operating system. Bundling IE with Windows means people have no choice in receiving it and only afterward have the option of deleting it or using an alternative product as the default browser, Opera said.

Opera also claimed that Microsoft is hindering interoperability by not following accepted open Web standards.

Microsoft struck back Friday, indicating that it would not willingly unbundle IE from Windows.

"We believe the inclusion of the (IE) browser into the operating system benefits consumers, and that consumers and PC manufacturers are already free to choose to use any browsers they wish," a Microsoft representative said. "Internet Explorer has been an integral part of the Windows operating system for over a decade and supports a wide range of Web standards."

The Microsoft representative added 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."

Opera filed the complaint against Microsoft this week, asserting that Microsoft has locked consumers into using IE, which has "only recently begun to offer some of the innovative features that other browsers have offered for years," such as tabbed browsing.

"We are filing this complaint on behalf of all consumers who are tired of having a monopolist make choices for them," said Jon von Tetzchner, chief executive officer of Opera. "In addition to promoting the free choice of individual consumers, we are a champion of open Web standards and cross-platform innovation."

Opera asked the European Commission to force Microsoft to unbundle IE from Windows and to carry alternative browsers preinstalled on the desktop. Opera also asked the EC to require Microsoft to follow "fundamental and open Web standards accepted by Web-authoring communities."

The browser company asserts that Microsoft's "unilateral control over standards in some markets has created a de facto standard that is more costly to support, harder to maintain, and technologically inferior and that can even expose users to security risks."

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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