Out of options, Opera files EU antitrust claim against Microsoft

Just when Microsoft thought it had the EU out of its hair, Opera may have brought it back to the bargaining table.

UPDATED Opera has struggled against Microsoft's Internet Explorer, only managing a little over a half percent worldwide market share compared to IE's 77% in November, according to NetApplications.

The browser is also falling further behind fellow alternative browser Firefox which now has 16 percent of the market, so filing an antitrust complaint seems like a last ditch effort. Much of what Opera accuses Microsoft of seems to already have been settled in the EU's antitrust case against the company.

Although that judgment dealt with Windows Media Player, the settlement of that case makes it somewhat unlikely that the governing body would go after Microsoft again.

Microsoft is accused of abusing its dominant position by tying its browser to Windows, and hindering interoperability by not following web standards. It asks the commission to order IE be unbundled from Windows, and to follow web standards.

"We are filing this complaint on behalf of all consumers who are tired of having a monopolist make choices for them," Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner said. "We cannot rest until we've brought fair and equitable options to consumers worldwide."

Opera's calls may fall on deaf ears however, especially considering Firefox's rise from Opera's levels to almost a fifth of the browser market in less than two years. The problem with Opera may not be Microsoft per se, but more a lack of buzz in its own product.

Firefox has been able to not only get people to switch to its browser, but also build a vibrant enough community around it that it has actively gone out to pursue converts. On the flip side, the Norwegian browser company has done little to advance its cause on a public level.

"In the end, Microsoft's own inertia, browser-security problems and inability to react quickly to market changes will continue to help its browser competitors more than a ruling by the EU or other antitrust body would," added noted pundit Mary Jo Foley, who gave several other reasons why Opera's antitrust complaint was a bad idea in a blog post Thursday.

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UPDATE 12:30 pm ET December 13, 2007 - In a response to BetaNews early this afternoon, Microsoft seemed to brush off Opera's accusations.

"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 pre-install any browser as the default on any Windows machine they sell," Microsoft Legal spokesperson Jack Evans said.

"We will of course cooperate with any inquiries into these issues, but we believe the inclusion of the browser into the operating system benefits consumers, and that consumers and PC manufacturers already are free to choose to use any browsers they wish."

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