EC to Microsoft: We may still fine you

In a statement earlier today, European Commission spokesperson Jonathan Todd is quoted by two sources, the International Herald-Tribune and the AFP, as having publicly renewed the EC's warning to Microsoft that it could impose more fines and force the company to offer competing Web browsers as an alternative to Internet Explorer, for the company's European edition of Windows 7.

The warning is not news; Microsoft made clear it had already received that warning from the EC in its latest Statement of Objections, as Betanews reported last month.

As Microsoft published in its last Form 10-Q filing to shareholders and the US Securities and Exchange Commission: "The statement of objections seeks to impose a remedy that is different than the remedy imposed in the earlier proceeding concerning Windows Media Player. While computer users and OEMs are already free to run any Web browsing software on Windows, the Commission is considering ordering Microsoft and OEMs to obligate users to choose a particular browser when setting up a new PC. Such a remedy might include a requirement that OEMs distribute multiple browsers on new Windows-based PCs. We may also be required to disable certain unspecified Internet Explorer software code if a user chooses a competing browser. The statement of objections also seeks to impose a significant fine based on sales of Windows operating systems in the European Union."

But the timing of the EC's latest shot over the bow is curious, as on the same day, the product manager in charge of Google Chrome -- not that company's usual public policy spokesperson -- added his company's official voice of support to the EC. Google now becomes the latest company to sign on as an interested third party, as Sundar Pichai announced today.

"Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users," Pichai wrote. "This is because Internet Explorer is tied to Microsoft's dominant computer operating system, giving it an unfair advantage over other browsers. Compare this to the mobile market, where Microsoft cannot tie Internet Explorer to a dominant operating system, and its browser therefore has a much lower usage. The value of competition for users (even in the limited form we see today) is clear: tabbed browsing, faster downloads, private browsing features, and more. Even greater competition will drive more innovation within browsers themselves - as well as in Web design, enabling sites to load faster and offer new kinds of interactive tools and applications."

Firefox maker Mozilla signed on as a third party in the EC's investigation two weeks ago, but as the company stated then, it would take a more neutral stance, at least officially. But where Mozilla declined to cite its own CEO, Mitchell Baker, Google did, attaching her words to Pichai's very first paragraph today: "[IE] harms competition between Web browsers, undermines product innovation, and ultimately reduces consumer choice."

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