LONDON-Jon Tetzchner has led Opera in many battles. Currently, the CEO of Opera Software is leading the company’s fight in the European Commission antitrust courts against Microsoft, claiming the software giant illegally bundles its Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system. The EU has recommended certain changes for Microsoft, one being that Microsoft offer a browser ballot screen for users to be able to select the browser of their choosing. However, that proposal has Apple as the first choice on the ballot, which has upset Mozilla.
To help shed a little light on just where things stand at this point, eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft sat down with Tetzchner at the Symbian Exchange & Exposition here to talk about the antitrust case and Opera’s technology. Excerpts of that conversation follow.
What is your takeaway about what’s happened so far with the EU case against Microsoft? What are you liking or not liking about this latest proposal for Microsoft to include a browser ballot?
I think the important thing is this is moving in a direction that is positive. Even Microsoft has said that. It’s good for consumers if there’s a choice of browsers and they will look at the ballot screen solution. 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 instead. They’ve done a tremendous job, and I think you have to give them credit for that.
What kind of elements are you talking about?
We would rather communicate with them how things can be improved.
What do you think of Mozilla’s objection to the proposal that Apple should be allowed to be listed first on the ballot? Do you think that’s appropriate?
Our thinking is that it would be best to have a random solution that basically when it comes to the different browsers that are shown in the screen that no particular order will be followed. I think that’s the fairest solution, but, again, we’ll leave it to the commission to come up with a good solution.
So if the commission does nothing more than force Microsoft to offer users a browser ballot and concede on the other interoperability issues mentioned in the case, would you be satisfied?
I think the ballot is good. I think it’s good also that there is a focus on … When we initiated this we were focused on open standards, and we think that’s important as well. But I think this is something that will also help forward open standards. Because, clearly, the other browsers we are talking about here are all following the standards better than Microsoft did. So that’s positive from the perspective of making open standards more prevalent.
OK, so can we go back to the essence of what prompted you to pursue this when it had already been tried?
Well, I think it’s been fairly clear that Microsoft has been violating antitrust law for a very, very, very, very long time. When we saw the conclusion from the Windows Media Player case. … We had been following the case, and we and Real [Networks] had made contact some time before that. We did not want to weigh in and get in the way of that particular work, so we waited until that was done. And clearly if you look at that case and you look at the browser case, you can see that the browser case is much clearer.
But we’ve seen it before in the U.S. courts.
Yes, and in the U.S. court. … It was very interesting what happened in the U.S. Clearly Microsoft was having a very rough time in court, but one of the changes that happened with the change in the presidency was that that case went away.
Do you have any observations on how well Opera works or does not work with Windows 7? Or with Windows Mobile 6.5?
We are being preinstalled on phones with Windows Mobile 6.5. And I have to look further into whether there are any issues with Windows 7, but none have been brought to my attention.