Microsoft insists a technical error is to blame for its failure to provide users with a browser choice screen in Windows, as instructed by the European Commission.
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Following a formal complaint from the European Commission about Microsoft's failure to live up to its promise to offer Window users a browser choice screen, Microsoft says it's sorry and attributes its 17-month period of non-compliance to a technical problem.
"We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it," Microsoft said in a statement. "Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we have taken steps to strengthen our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission."
Microsoft says it will alter the way the browser choice screen functions in Windows 8 and these changes will be incorporated when Windows 8 launches later this week.
Microsoft agreed to deploy a browser choice screen to address antitrust concerns related to its decision several years ago to tie Internet Explorer to its Windows operating system, still the dominant desktop operating system.
The European Commission concluded that Microsoft's actions distorted competition, hindered innovation, and created artificial incentives for developers and content producers to design software and websites primarily for Internet Explorer. It filed a Statement of Objections with Microsoft on Jan. 15, 2009.
In July 2009, Microsoft proposed concessions to make its products more interoperable and to satisfy antitrust concerns, and in December 2009, it agreed to make a browser choice screen available for five years, until 2014.
The browser choice screen is supposed to present users with a menu that lists the 12 most popular browsers, with the top five appearing on the default screen and the remainder accessible via scrolling. It is intended to provide Windows users with the opportunity to choose which browser to install without bias.
The listed browsers include: Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir, and Slim Browser.
Microsoft launched the browser choice screen in EU versions of Windows in March 2010. The screen, however, was missing from the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 update in February 2011. So from early 2011 until July 2012, Windows users in the EU might not have had the opportunity to choose a browser other than Internet Explorer.
The Commission's formal complaint could lead to a fine of up to 10% of Microsoft's annual revenue, if the Commission decides Microsoft's defense of its actions is inadequate.
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