Opera lashes out over Microsoft's browser removal

The software maker's move to strip Internet Explorer from Windows 7 in Europe will do nothing to restore competition, the Norwegian browser maker tells CNET News.

The chief complainant in the European browser case against Microsoft says that the move to strip Internet Explorer out of Windows 7 in Europe is an insufficient step that won't lead to better competition in the browser market.

In an interview, Opera Chief Technology Officer Hakon Wium Lie said that with regulators threatening action , Microsoft was under pressure to do something, but said that its choice wasn't what Opera was looking for. Lie told CNET that Opera wants people to have access to more browsers, not fewer.

Hakon Wium Lie Opera

"I don't believe this is going to restore competition in the marketplace," he said.

Instead, Lie favors a proposal that the European regulators have been considering that would require users to be given a choice to download one or more browsers the first time they access the Internet.

"We would like to give users a genuine choice," Lie said. The remedy that the EC has been discussing, a so-called "must-carry" remedy, would be a better solution, he said.

Microsoft acknowledged in a blog posting that regulators could still force that to happen.

"Our decision to only offer IE separately from Windows 7 in Europe cannot, of course, preclude the possibility of alternative approaches emerging through Commission processes," Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner said in the blog.

But Heinen said that Microsoft believes its move puts it in compliance with European law.

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CNET News intern Mats Lewan talks to reporter
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"We believe that this new approach, while not our first choice, is the best path forward given the ongoing legal case in Europe," he wrote. "It will address the 'bundling' claim while providing European consumers with access to the full range of Windows 7 benefits that will be available in the rest of the world."

For his part, Lie said it is a solution that won't fundamentally change anything, as was the case when the company issued a version of Windows in Europe with the Media Player removed.

"They are under pressure to do something and they come up with this thing, which is quite obviously not going to work," he said. "This is very similar to what the remedy was in the Media Player case. It was widely recognized that that was an insufficient remedy. It was too little too late."

By removing the browser, Microsoft won't make life any easier for Opera, which still needs to find a way to get its browser on to computers. It could theoretically now strike a deal with PC makers to get Opera included in place of Internet Explorer, but of Microsoft's rivals, only Google seems likely to have that kind of money. Lie said his company definitely does not.

"Certainly, we are in no financial situation to pay lots of money to have Opera distributed on new PCs," he said.

The situation is even more precarious for those upgrading existing machines to Windows 7 . In that case they get a PC with no browser at all. Microsoft will make lots of CDs that will give users IE 8 if they want, but Opera and rivals have no easy way to get on those machines, short of following Microsoft's approach.

Lie also objected to the fact Microsoft is only making the move in Europe.

"It's Europe only," he said. "We're looking for more than that. We want the whole world to have better access to better browsers."

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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