LONDON Microsoft said it would strongly defend itself against complaints to the European Commission by mobile browser group Opera Software that it is illegally handicapping competition, and stressed it would not willingly unbundle Internet Explorer from its Windows browser.
Meanwhile a coalition of technology companies within the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), which includes companies such as Nokia, Sun Microsystems and IBM, has backed last week's complaint by the Norwegian group that has asked the EC antitrust authorities to investigate Microsoft's activities in the mobile browsers business.
Opera claimed that bundling IE with Windows means people have no choice in receiving it and only afterward have the option of deleting it or using an alternative product as the default browser.
However, Microsoft retorted: "We believe the inclusion of the (IE) browser into the operating system benefits consumers, and that consumers and PC manufacturers are already free to choose to use any browsers they wish. "Internet Explorer has been an integral part of the Windows operating system for over a decade and supports a wide range of Web standards," the software giant said in a statement.
Microsoft added it would co-operate with the EC authorities but stressed: "Computer users have complete freedom of choice to use and set as default any browser they wish, including Opera, and PC manufacturers can also preinstall any browser as the default on any Windows machine they sell."
Less than three months ago, Microsoft lost a key and long running anti-trust case against the European Commission over PC operating software.
In backing Opera's case, ECIS' counsel, Thomas Vinje, said: "Microsoft deprives consumers of real choice in internet browsers. Browsers are the gateway to the internet. Microsoft seeks to control this gateway.”
The ECIS suggests that the Opera complaint parallels that on Media Player bundling. The latest legal action also echoes a case brought in America in 1998, in which the US Justice Department won a ruling against Microsoft for competing illegally with Netscape, a former market-leading browser that was crushed when Microsoft effectively began giving IE away.