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ACT: IE antitrust case 'will harm consumers'

Unbundling browser will hurt developers

The European Commission claims it is acting in the interests of consumers in pursuing an antitrust ruling against Microsoft for bundling its Internet Explorer into the Windows OS, but unbundling them would be a nightmare for independent software developers, said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), on Monday.

Zuck was planning to make his argument in person next week at an antitrust hearing, but Microsoft cancelled the hearing because key European Commission officials involved in the case wouldn't be able to attend. The ACT is one of several trade groups that have been accepted as interested third parties in the European antitrust case against Microsoft.

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Microsoft initially asked for a hearing in order to challenge the Commission's formal charges made in January that it has abused the dominant position of Windows by bundling IE. The formal charges, known as a statement of objections, proposed a remedy that would replace IE with a choice of competing browsers.

Zuck argued that the remedy under consideration by Europe's top antitrust regulator could shift the burden of maintaining Windows as a software development platform from Microsoft to ISVs.

"Don't remove IE's code," Zuck said, adding: "I don't care whether the application is there or not but software developers need IE's code in order to do their work," he said.

"The Commission seems intent on ending the functionality of Windows. If it strips out IE what will it strip out next? Where will it stop?" he asked.

The Commission is considering forcing Microsoft to strip out all IE code and offer users a choice of browsers - a so-called "must carry" remedy. This is the best way to ensure consumer choice in the browser market, in the Commission's view.

But Zuck warned: "If you are going to focus on end users, don't screw it up for ISVs." He spoke on behalf of 73 independent software vendors that signed the ACT's submission, formally submitted to the Commission Monday.

Besides the association, PIN-SME, another group claiming to represent the interest of small software vendors, joined the case last month on the side of the Commission. Likewise, Free Software Foundation Europe joined earlier this year.

Google, maker of the Chrome browser, and Mozilla Foundation, maker of the Firefox browser, were also accepted as interested third parties. The Norwegian browser maker Opera sparked the whole case with a complaint about IE in 2007.

A final ruling in the case is expected this summer.


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