Consumer advocates are asking Microsoft to give American consumers browser choices beyond Internet Explorer when purchasing a Windows operating system.
In a letter to Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer, the American Antitrust Institute (AAI), Consumers Union, the National Consumers League (NCL), and Consumer Action express "ongoing concerns that American consumers do not have access to the same choices among browsers that are today available to our European counterparts."
When the United States settled its antitrust litigation with Microsoft nine years ago, it allowed Microsoft to continue bundling the Internet Explorer web browser with the Windows operating system. Last year's European Union settlement with Microsoft unbundled Internet Explorer from Windows and gave consumers a software ballot asking them to choose which browser to install from a list of 12 options.
"European consumers are choosing browsers other than Explorer," said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. "We would expect similar behavior in the U.S. market should consumers be given a choice."
The letter cites earlier discussions the consumer advocates had with Microsoft on this issue, "In fact, we did ask this question to a Microsoft representative some months ago, but the reply was that the settlement in Europe was forced on the company and is a bad idea because consumers really don't want choices and those who care enough can learn how to change their settings in order to use a different browser. This seems like the wrong response for a company that views itself as innovative and consumer-friendly."
"Our aim is not to choose winners or losers in the marketplace, but to ensure a competitive process," said AAI President Bert Foer. "It in fact may be procompetitive for a consumer to choose Internet Explorer in an environment where other choices are available; but it is anticompetitive for a consumer to use Internet Explorer because he or she was not given a choice. This holiday season, we are asking Microsoft to give American consumers a much deserved and appreciated holiday gift; the gift of choice."