European Union vs Microsoft, Opera - The war continues

It is known that the European Commission(EC) is considering forcing Microsoft to bundle rival browsers alongside IE in the Windows OS. It is likely that this is based on a complaint filed by Opera which condemned Microsoft for browser monopoly and urged Microsoft to follow fundamental and open Web standards.

In an interview with The Register, Hakon Wium Lie, Opera Software CTO, outlined 2 possible options in his view that could work if EC makes it mandatory for Microsoft to deliver browsers of user's choice. He suggested that either:

  • An Automatic Update download agent to get user's preference before the browser gets installed, (or)
  • Display the available range of browsers and get user preference to run a specific browser.

Lie said that he believed only a legal ruling will enforce genuine web standards on IE. The
new IE 8 RC1 has two rendering engines, one to view sites built using current web standards and another to view legacy sites built for the non-standards compliant versions of Microsoft's browser. IE 8 also requires a tag to be included in the websites so they can instruct the browser what to do. According to Lie, this will require other browser makers like Opera to include separate rendering engines and code to replicate the behavior of IE 8 for web sites which will make the browsers complex and slow. Further development will also be slow as only Microsoft has access to the code for its rendering engines.

Every OS, including Linux, ships with a default browser and it's the users choice to install any other browser. Users may use the default browser to download and install their other favorite browsers. But, it looks like Opera wants that choice to be given to the users in regard to Browsers, as if the users currently don't have an option to install other browsers at all. Certainly, many people will end up using the default browser installed in the OS, but this doesn't mean that they are not allowed to download and install other browsers.

This is the similar scenario with Microsoft Windows. Internet Explorer comes installed by default, and users who wish to use Internet Explorer can continue using so, and, users who wish to download Firefox or Chrome or Opera, can install those too.

How different is Apple Mac OS X? Safari comes installed by default and users still have the freedom to download and install their other favorite browsers. The same is with Ubuntu Linux, where Firefox comes installed by default.

Well, one possible solution for Microsoft as Opera suggests, would be to suggest users other browsers. But, why should Microsoft who owns its OS do so? It's different when OEM vendors give a choice to the users. For example, Dell can provide a suitable interface to the user allowing him to install his favorite browser, but I don't think it is Microsoft's job to suggest user a competitor's product than its own product. Microsoft has already clarified that computer users and OEMs are free to run any web browsing software on Windows.

If the EC wins this battle, fills it's account with loads of cash and forces Microsoft to bundle competitor's browsers into its OS, what about Apple, Linux or any other OS in that regard? Will Opera file a complaint against them too?

What do you think of Opera's strategy? Is it good enough to bring peace in the browser market?

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