One extra week for Microsoft to defend tying IE to Windows

After a Financial Times report this morning cited April 28 as the deadline for Microsoft to comply with a request by the European Commission to respond to its latest Statement of Objections, reporters close to the story wondered why that seemed like one week too many. As it turned out, the FT had something of a scoop and didn't even know it, as Microsoft confirmed the news to Reuters later in the day. April 21 had been the company's anticipated deadline.

Last January, the EC issued a formal objection to Microsoft regarding its practice of bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, which it claims doesn't give browser competitors a level playing field. Statements of Objections are the first steps taken in launching formal court proceedings against a prospective defendant; yesterday, the EC issued a similar notice against the government of the United Kingdom, for interpreting or "transposing" an EU law in a way which could enable interception of private Internet communications data.

This latest Microsoft charge is actually the most recent event in a very old case, dating back to the 1998 US' antitrust case against Microsoft. So it should be no surprise that one of the "usual suspects" in public disputes about Internet Explorer has signed its name on as an interested third party, joining such notables as Google, IBM, and the Mozilla Foundation. Though Mozilla stated its status did not mean it should be considered taking a stand against Microsoft, in a statement this morning, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems stated its new status should be interpreted that way.

"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," stated ECIS spokesperson Thomas Vinje this morning (PDF available here). "Smaller, more innovative browser developers need a level playing field. That is why there is such broad support for the Commission's preliminary findings of abuse."

Browser maker Opera Software is an ECIS member, though other major browser manufacturers Mozilla, Google, and Apple are not. However, in its statement this morning, the ECIS deemed itself an "intervenor" in the Microsoft affair, and tied itself to Google, Mozilla, and Free Software Foundation Europe, calling them "intervenors seeking an end to these anti-competitive practices."

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