Rivals challenge Microsoft browser settlement

Three rivals of Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser are seeking last minute changes to a proposal, that would see new users of Windows presented with a ballot screen of the top five browsers. Rivals believe that the current ballot screen proposal still gives Internet Explorer an unfair advantage.

After a complaint from the makers of the Opera web browser, the European Commission decided in January that Microsoft's inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows constituted an abuse of their dominant market position. In October, the Redmond-based company proposed a so-called browser "ballot screen", which would display a list of the top five browsers to consumers when they boot a new computer for the first time.

The commission has asked Microsoft's rivals, who still appear to be unhappy with the proposal, to comment on the company's offer by Monday.

Oslo-based Opera believes that the ballot should be displayed on a screen that does not contain the Microsoft logo. "It would be like having an election ballot where the name or logo of one candidate is displayed separately, prominently up in the corner of the ballot," said Mr. Lie, chief technology officer at Opera. "You wouldn't want that."

Opera also want Microsoft to prevent Windows from displaying the standard security warnings that occur when users download software from the Internet.

Mozilla, the creators of Firefox, are concerned about the ballot screen's design. Displayed within an Internet Explorer window, the screen will list the five most popular browsers in alphabetical order from left to right, giving first spot to Apple's Safari. Jenny Boriss, a Mozilla designer, criticized the display in a post on October 16th, writing, "Windows users presented with the current design will tend to make only two choices: Internet Explorer because they are familiar with it, or Safari because it is the first item." She went on to suggest that the browsers be displayed randomly.

Mr. Lie has said Google, Mozilla and Opera will send separate letters to the commission, detailing their requests for changes.

European competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, has said she will take Microsoft to court should they fail to agree to a fair settlement. However, Mrs. Kroes, who is likely to step down at the end of the year, has said she would prefer to settle open cases before leaving.

According to research firm Net Applications, Internet Explorer current has a 67 percent share of the browser market, following by Firefox with 24 percent. Apple's Safari has 4.4 percent, Google's Chrome 3.5 percent and Opera just 2 percent.

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