EU expands browser probe to include Windows 8, Windows RT, says report

European antitrust regulators probing whether Microsoft blocks rival browser makers from accessing APIs, says Reuters

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Microsoft previously declined comment about the Mozilla and Google complaints, and did not reply today to a request for comment on the Reuters report.

Reuters also said that the Commission is investigating charges that Microsoft "does not provide full access to complete APIs for non-default browsers in Windows 8."

Those APIs, which have not been a major bone of contention, likely are ones that block any browser's Metro version from running in Windows 8's tile-based environment unless that browser has been designated as the default by the user.

Windows 8 initially sets IE10 as the default browser in both Metro and the traditional desktop, the two different -- and some say "jarring" -- modes in the operating system.

In other words, only one Metro browser may run at a time.

According to Reuters, the Commission's newest investigation was kick-started by complaints filed by other companies. A Commission spokesman declined to identify those firms to Reuters.

Google did not reply to requests for comment on the new investigation. Computerworld is awaiting confirmation on the Reuters report from the Commission.

Mozilla's general counsel, Harvey Anderson, praised the Commission's action.

"We support the European Commission's efforts to ensure compliance with the 2009 commitments adopted by Microsoft, and feel it is premature to form any conclusion until the EC has completed its inquiry and gathered all of the facts," Anderson said in a statement.

European antitrust regulators have made it clear that Windows 8 must abide by the 2009 deal that requires the operating system to offer users a choice of browsers other than IE. The officials, however, have declined to say whether the same also applies to Windows RT.

By the language of the landmark settlement Microsoft reached in 2002 with the U.S. Department of Justice, Microsoft may be free to ban access to Win32 APIs in Windows RT, as the settlement repeatedly limited the deal to "Intel-compatible PCs."

U.S. government scrutiny of Microsoft ended in 2007.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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