High-tech groups to testify against Microsoft

A group of technology companies led by IBM, Nokia and Oracle, has joined the European Commission’s antitrust case against Microsoft and will testify against the company, which is accused of abusing its dominance in the internet browser market.

Ecis, the technology industry group, on Wednesday said it had been accepted as a third party complainant in the case, joining Google and the Mozilla Foundation, the developers of the Firefox browser.

The addition of these technology heavyweights to the case highlights the rising importance of controlling internet browser technology. More and more technology services are being accessed through the internet, including word processing programs, productivity software and leisure activities, such as games. Companies are keen to limit Microsoft’s current dominance.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser has 65.5 per cent of global market share, according to StatCounter, compared with just over 27 per cent for Firefox, its closest competitor.

The Commission suspects Microsoft of having broken European antitrust laws by tying the IE browser to its dominant Windows operating system, thereby undermining rival products.

Some rivals would like to see Microsoft compelled to offer a choice of up to four browsers with the Windows operating system.

“This is an important case to ensure that browsers can compete on merit and that consumers have a true choice in the software they use to access the world wide web. Smaller, more innovative browser developers need a level playing field,” said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer and Ecis spokesman.

Microsoft declined to comment on the news.

The European Commission sent Microsoft a complaint in January, with initial findings that the company was harming competition with its practices. Microsoft has until April 28 to respond.

Ecis has also been active in campaigning against Microsoft over its proprietary programming languages such as XAML and Office Open XML on the internet.

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