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Microsoft to offer Web browser choice

MICROSOFT Corp will offer computer users a choice of rival Web browsers to ward off new European Union antitrust fines, according to EU regulators and Microsoft.

Microsoft has said its proposal, if accepted by the European Commission, would "fully address" antitrust worries over its browser and "would mark a big step forward in addressing a decade of legal issues."

The EU has charged the company with monopoly abuse for tying the Internet Explorer browser to the Windows operating system installed on most of the world's desktop computers.

It welcomed Microsoft's suggestions and said it will evaluate the proposal and seek input from other browser makers and computer companies before making a decision. If approved, the proposal could be legally binding for five years.

On the browser case, Microsoft is suggesting that users of Windows XP, Vista or its latest release Windows 7 who have Internet Explorer set as the default browser would see a Web page prompting them to pick from five of the most popular browsers in Europe. Existing Windows users would get the ballot screen from a software update.

Microsoft said the list of browsers would be reviewed twice a year based on usage data for the previous six months. Microsoft's browser is the most widely used worldwide, but Mozilla Corp's Firefox is gaining in popularity.

Mozilla and Google Inc - which recently released a browser, Chrome - are supporting the case against Microsoft.

Windows would still include Internet Explorer, but users would be able to disable it. Computer manufacturers could also choose to install other browsers, set them as default and disable Internet Explorer.

The company said last month that it would remove its browser from Windows entirely to avoid antitrust problems. Instead, it planned to give Internet Explorer away as a download or on a disc. EU regulators slammed the idea, saying the 5 percent of people who buy Windows off the shelf wouldn't have a real choice of browsers. Most people buy the software pre-installed on a computer assembled by manufacturers.



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