The European Union has said that Microsoft Corporation's practice of selling the Internet Explorer browser together with its Windows operating system violates EU antitrust rules.
It ordered the software giant to untie the browser from its operating system in the 27-nation EU, enabling makers of rival browsers to compete fairly.
"Microsoft's tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice," the EU said in a statement yesterday.
It gave Microsoft eight weeks to respond, adding that the company can defend its position in a hearing if it finds that useful.
Microsoft issued a statement saying, "We are committed to conducting our business in full compliance with European law."
The commission's investigation into Microsoft's Web-surfing software began a year ago, after the Norwegian browser-maker Opera Software ASA filed a complaint. Opera argued that Microsoft hurt competitors not only by bundling the software, in effect giving away the browser, but also by not following accepted Web standards.
That meant programmers who built Web pages would have to tweak their codes for different browsers. In many cases, they simply designed pages that worked with market-leading Internet Explorer but showed up garbled on competing browsers.
At the time of the complaint, Opera said it was asking EU regulators to either force Microsoft to market a version of Windows without the browser, or to include other browsers with Windows.