Microsoft Granted Face Time With EU Regulators

European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told Reuters the EC has agreed to Microsoft's request to verbally present the arguments its lawyers outlined in the so-called "statement of objections" filed on April 28.

The EC's stance is that by tying IE to Windows, Microsoft has been in violation of European competition law since 1996, and that the 2002 U.S. court decision on this same issue doesn't apply in Europe. The EC filed the charges on Jan. 15 and gave Microsoft eight weeks to respond.

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer's market share fell from 66.82 percent in March to 66.10 percent in April, while Firefox's jumped from 22.05 percent to 22.48 percent during the period, according to the latest data from Net Applications. Microsoft launched IE8 in March, but the new navigation and security features it contains haven't managed to stop the slide.

In the Windows 7 Release Candidate, Microsoft has added the ability to disable Internet Explorer, as well as Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows Search and several other applications. Microsoft says the decision gives customers more choices, but many industry watchers see it as an attempt to keep the litigation-happy EU at bay.

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The EU, of course, in 2004 declared Microsoft guilty of abusing its "near monopoly" with Windows and hit the company with a then-record $613 million fine. Microsoft also was ordered to offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player and to release programming code to rivals in the server market.

Last year, the EU slapped Microsoft with a $1.35 billion fine for overcharging open-source developers for Windows server operating system communications protocols, boosting the total of EU fines levied against the software giant to $2.5 billion.