EU and Microsoft settle browser anti-trust case

European Union regulators have accepted Microsoft’s pledge to give European consumers better access to rival Internet browsers in Windows.

Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said on Wednesday millions of European consumers would benefit from being able to choose their browser and the decision would encourage web companies to innovate.

Microsoft will allow users to select from among 12 browsers including its own Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox, Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome on more than 100 million old and new PCs from mid-March, 2010.

Browser makers Google and Opera, which filed the original case, welcomed Wednesday's decision and Opera's share price rose sharply, gaining more than 3 percent.

"We think this is an important victory for the web," Opera's chief technology officer Hakon Wium Lie told Reuters. "This means Internet users in Europe will have a genuine choice. It feels good. It's been two years of hard work for us."

The decision averted another penalty for Microsoft, which has been fined 1.68 billion euros by the European Commission for previous antitrust infringements.

Microsoft said it was pleased with the result of the case.

Analysts said they did not expect rivals to dent Microsoft's market share, despite consumers getting a choice of browsers.

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