Microsoft will have a new European Commission Competition Commissioner in mid-January 2010, as Neelie Kroes steps down to take another position within the EU law enforcement body. Meanwhile, reports circulating online indicate that Microsoft and the European Commission may conclude a deal over Internet Explorer 8 being bundled with Windows 7 by Dec. 15. Opera, Mozilla and other companies previously planned on asking the Commission to review Microsoft's solution for the issue, which involved installing a "ballot screen" that would let users choose their browser.
Microsoft will face a new European Commission antitrust watchdog in
mid-January, as European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes steps down
to take a new job as a vice president of the EC.
to replace Kroes is Joach??Ãn Almunia, who currently serves as commissioner for
Economic and Monetary Affairs
. Formerly the Socialist party candidate for prime
minister of Spain
in 2000, Almunia will likely continue the European Commission
's current crackdown
policies with regard to monopolies. The
potential Oracle-Sun acquisition
is currently under rigorous review by the
Commission, which has indicated that it has issues with the deal.
But many of Microsoft's issues with the European Commission, the law
enforcement body of the European Union responsible for its antitrust
initiatives, may be resolved before the end of the year, according to new
Arguably chief among those issues in the latter part of 2009 has been
Microsoft's plans to package Internet Explorer 8 into Windows 7. After the
European Commission hinted that the operating system would have to ship in
Europe without IE 8 preinstalled, in order to avoid antitrust issues, Microsoft
suggested in August that it would install an automatic "ballot
screen" that would allow users to select between IE 8 and a competing Web
Reports in November suggested that Mozilla, Opera and Google would all ask
the Commission for last-minute changes to a possible agreement between it and
Microsoft. Although Microsoft had taken steps with its ballot screen to present
at least an ostensible choice of browsers, its rivals likely wanted to ensure
that no deal passed that would give Redmond
an unfair advantage.
In an October interview with eWEEK, Opera CEO
Jon Tetzschner suggested that Microsoft's ballot screen was a step in the right
direction, but he felt more work needed to be done.
"It's good for consumers if there's a choice of browsers, and they will
look at the ballot screen solution," Tetzschner said at the time.
"And if users are provided with a choice of ballots, I think that's very
good. That's what we had hoped for. There are elements in this that we think
could have been done better, but we'll communicate that to the Commission
On Dec. 3, Bloomberg
quoted sources ("who
declined to be identified because the terms of the settlement aren't
public") as saying that Microsoft has agreed to make the changes sought by
Opera. As a result, the agreement between Microsoft and the EU may be finalized
as soon as Dec. 15, those sources added.
Kroes had previously suggested that she would like the deal over IE 8 to
close by the end of 2009. The
European Commission had previously fined Microsoft some $631 million in 2004,
for allegedly monopolistic business practices.