Google joins EU antitrust case against Microsoft

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Feb 24, 2009 4:54pm EST

A sign hangs at the Microsoft booth at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada in this file photo from January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

A sign hangs at the Microsoft booth at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada in this file photo from January 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc has added its voice to the case against Microsoft Corp as the European Commission probes antitrust charges related to the software giant's Internet Explorer browser.

"Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users," Sundar Pichai, Google vice president product manager, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

Google introduced the Chrome browser last year, which has taken little market share.

The Internet company joins the Mozilla foundation, producer of the Firefox Web browser, and Norway's Opera, a privately held company. Google adds the voice of a significant and well-financed player in the case against Microsoft.

In January, European regulators brought formal charges against Microsoft for abusing its dominant market position by bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with its Windows operating system, which is used in 95 percent of the world's personal computers.

If the preliminary views expressed in the EC's Statement of Objections are confirmed, Microsoft could be subject to a fine and an order requiring it to cease bundling its browser and operating system.

In 2007, European Union courts upheld the European Commission's finding that Microsoft violated antitrust law by bundling its Windows Media player with the Windows operating system. It also found Microsoft used illegal tactics against RealNetworks real player.

The company has been fined more than $2 billion for its violations and for failing to carry out remedies imposed by the Commission.

In 2000, a U.S. judge decided that Microsoft had broken the law after it combined its Internet Explorer browser and the Windows operating system. The most serious violations of the law were upheld on appeal, but the company continued to bundle its operating system and browser.

Google competes with Microsoft in several markets, including online search engines.

Pichai wrote that the company hopes its perspective in launching Chrome will "be useful as the European Commission evaluates remedies to improve the user experience and offer consumers real choices."

Interveners traditionally provide background information, legal theories and proposed remedies to the Commision in cases.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic and David Lawsky, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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