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European regulators could force Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer

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Sometimes it may seem like there are only two or three web browsers that matter. Most computer users surf the web with Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari. But there are a ton of other options, including Opera, Google Chrome, and Sleipnir. Still, most people continue to use Internet Explorer, and one of the main reasons for that is because it's the web browser that comes bundled with Windows, the operating system installed on around 90% of all consumer oriented computers.

A while back, the folks behind the Opera browser decided to do something about this, and filed a complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission. And last week, the Commission ruled that Microsoft is violating EC antitrust rules by bundling its browser with its operating system.

It's not clear what the next step is yet. It's possible that the EC could impose a stiff fine against Microsoft, or it could require Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without Internet Explorer in Europe (which would still be available as a free download from Microsoft's web site). That's the approach European regulators took a few years back with Microsoft's bundling of Windows Media Player. But even if Microsoft is ordered to unbundle Internet Explorer, Microsoft may retain the right to sell two versions of Windows, one with IE, and one without.

What do you think, is it anti-competitive to include a web browser with your operating system, or is it just common sense since most people expect to be able to surf the web immediately after plugging in their new computer? If Microsoft is told to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows, would it lead to surge in popularity of alternative applications like Firefox or Opera?

Tags: antitrust, europe, european-commission, internet-explorer, microsoft, news, web-browsers